Here we are, about to turn Brando in for his advanced training.  The dreaded moment came today.  After living with us for almost 19 months, Brando is now in a kennel up in Oceanside.  He’s sharing it with another young male pup, and I’m hoping his buddy’s presence will distract and comfort him amidst the strangeness of his surroundings. On Monday, the CCI staff will start doing the physical exams and temperament testing that will take up most of the puppies’ next few weeks.  By the beginning of March they should begin working in earnest on transforming the pups into service dogs.

People constantly comment to me that they could never raise a puppy and give it up, and I always respond that you can never volunteer to be a puppy raiser unless you understand that it’s not your dog. You get to take care of these really cool animal for a year and a half or so, but you steel yourself from the start for what’s coming.

That’s all true, but the psychological truth is that I don’t much think about Turn-in Day until it’s almost upon us.  And then it’s horrible.  It helps to see the graduate dogs being awarded to the people whose lives they’ll change — kids in wheelchairs with awful diseases; ex-soldiers who’s limbs have been blown off; even the facility dogs who’ll be going to work with victims of violent crimes or strokes or the like. It doesn’t help to see the slide show of images of the incoming puppy class, always adorably cute and comic and surrounded by their loving puppy raisers.  The crying starts then, and overtakes us periodically from then till we drive away, with an empty kennel.

Will Mr. Brando make it?  Fulfill the destiny he was bred for and enter a life of service?  Steve and I say he has a fighting chance.  He’s the easiest dog we’ve ever raised, a total sweetheart and an ever-entertaining companion.  But only he can demonstrate that he has the right stuff.  We’ll continue to follow his journey here.

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