Updated: Oct 7, 2019
We get a lot of questions here at CC. I mean, a lot. But, don't think we're complaining. We're not! We love hearing questions, thoughts, and wonders. Questions we can answer are GREAT! We enjoy when we're able to provide education, information, and compassion for our clients and handlers, and have done so for the past several years.
One question I get a lot - and that I don't know if I've ever fully conveyed the true response to - is:
"HOW DO YOU DO IT?"
"Isn't it hard to let them go?" Yes, it is. It's never not difficult for me, I can promise you that. And if there is ever a day that comes when it's easy to see my pups leave and live away from me, then that is the day I'll stop raising and training. If I don't feel their presence leave my daily life, if I don't notice the light that every dog brings with them being gone from my personal world, then it's time to hang up the training vest and boots.
So, yes. It's very hard. But, the only thing that heals a, "Goodbye," is a "Hello." I know these puppies are going to wonderful families who are so excited to have them, and are eager to use the methods CC created to help their puppy grow and communicate -- and they're excited to learn about their puppy, too. Who is he? What does he like? When does he wake up? What does he chew on? Yes, we answer all these questions and more, because we know this pup who is one of our own.
Sometimes, the adoption situations are bitter-sweet for the family too, and I know that. Many of them have lost a pet who was in their family for years...They've come to us to help them heal. And, I'm happy to. It is that happiness which helps me bear the uneasy turn in my stomach the moment I hand my pup to you for the last time, because after that, he's yours.
But, before all of this happens, I am the one who has the questions.
"DO I TRUST YOU?"
Do I trust you to have patience with this animal? Do I trust that you understand that my efforts to raise a good pet for your family is not simply a job -- it's part of who I am, and the puppy you're adopting or the dog you're receiving has been my friend, my joy, and my family member, too? Are you going to remember when I warn you that the Transition Period is difficult, and frustrating, and worth it if you are consistent and patient?
Or will I wake up to a desperate email, 36 hours after turn-over, to hear you're confused and frustrated that your puppy isn't settled in yet? And he had a potty accident.
Do you know that when I read that email, I feel physically ill? I do. I was ashamed about this at first, thinking this feeling was a form of guilt because the dogs were not "as well trained" as I thought...But, that's untrue. The feeling is coming from worry for my puppy. Because, I know who she is, and I know she's nervous right now. And I can't comfort her. The best I can do is try talk you, her family, back to balance and patience once again. She knows what to do, but she needs your help. Are you going to help her, or are you going to blame her for being a puppy?
Will you remember he is not a product? There is no "one size fits all" dog, or family, or training program. Can you remember that she is not a computer or a phone which you can customize with just a few downloads? She thinks for herself, she has needs and wants and preferences of her own. Will you be able to work with that personality, or will you try to insist it's your way or the highway? Because, "It's just a dog," right?
Can I trust you to love this puppy past puppyhood; through the frustrations of the teen-phase, on to the long summers of fun, and into his twilight years without ever losing that love or that devotion to him that he has for you?
Most of all, do I trust that you will remember this animal is a child at heart, and all he wants in life is to be loved? -- Are you going to give enough of your love to him?
These are the questions I wonder when we're accepting adoption applications and readying placements. It's a very long process, although our clients often don't see it; the debate, the worry, the wondering. It is there, as it should be. And it's part of the reason we take breaks between classes. I need to rest. My heart needs a rest before I can get up and go for it all again.
SO, WHY DO I DO IT?
For years, I worked mostly with behavioral cases. Severe behaviors, yes. But, also nuisance, trouble, and destructive behaviors -- running off, jumping, submissive aggression, resource guarding, separation anxiety, mouthing or biting, etc. And, over time, I began to make a spot in my notes to track when I felt these behaviors started, and why. (A bit of Canine Psychology CSI on ABC Mondays, right?)
For 3 entire years, about 80% of all the behavioral cases I was given were believed to be caused or founded in the early-learning phase of life. Puppyhood.
But, it was just a theory. I needed to prove it, like a good scientist would.
I contracted with a breeder in Utah for 2015-2016 who bred English Golden Retrievers on what I considered to be a superior level to others I knew of. These were dogs I could monitor throughout their time from conception to birth, weaning, and training. I could see their genetic history due to their pure-breed status, and I could monitor what sires met with what dams according to their energy level, intelligence, and personality. The only thing I couldn't control was the environment. These were not my dogs; I was there to teach them, and thereby learn myself.
In one year, I taught more puppies than a trainer may hope to in their lifetime. It was wonderful! Hard work, and sometimes gross, but wonderful!
At the conclusion of the contract, practice was over. The CC puppy program was beginning to take life.
The breeder downsized significantly and adjusted their smaller program to focus on a small number of dogs (3) and their pups; so applause for that! They ended their breeding program not long after the downsizing - this is the result of reality catching up with aspirations. Dog breeding, training, and raising is a LOT of work. Not everyone is up for it, and that's entirely ok!
Moving on: CC's puppy program launched officially in April 2017. And now, here we are. Learning together, you the family and us the trainers. We're all loving these pups in the genuine and understanding way they deserve. There is a healthy respect of the bond between animal and human, and knowing that The Wild is still somewhere in them...and in us, too.
"WHERE DO YOU WANT TO BE IN 5 YEARS?"
Ok, so, I don't think any client has ever asked me this question. But, I feel like it's an important one for people to know the answer to:
Here. I want to be right here, at CC Utah, where we will have completed the truest form of natural and stimulating environment I can design; complete with the puppy cabin, the grassy play yards with dens and tunnels and sandboxes and toys. A running waterfall for those hot summer days, and adorable students who are happy to learn...and play in the mud they make with their splashing in said waterfall. And, of course, a place to snuggle at night that is not in a kennel or cage.
My goal is to bring a clearer understanding between people and their dogs. And I will continue to work for that as long as I am able. Whether we're working Service Dogs, puppies, or behavior rehab on rescues and pets, CC will be here.
I want the Classic Canines program to flourish; not because it's mine, but because I know it helps people - often in ways they don't necessarily expect.
I hope it goes far and then farther still.