So here we are, Sunday, exactly one week from graduation and two from when we started.
It’s been hard, and frustrating…but also the kind of joyful that brings you to tears and laughter.
Hudson and I are, slowly but surely, bonding. And as this happens, I become more and more certain that he was the right dog for me.
I’m writing this from memory and a few notes (and my printed schedule to remind me!), but hopefully it’ll be a roughly accurate summary of the last two weeks!
Saturday, June 20: Day 1.
So, one thing led to another and we were an hour later leaving the house than we had hoped. It’s partly because it takes a lot of work to take me anywhere, partly because I wasn’t feeling all that hot, and partly because the boyfriend doesn’t tend to plan ahead and get organizing things while I’m not up and able to do so.
Then there was an accident on the highway we had to take to get to our host’s house. Oh lordy, that was about the last thing we needed!! It added an extra 45 minutes, so instead of ending up there 20 minutes earlier than stated (which we would have been if we left when planned), we arrived 85 minutes later than planned! This was, as you can imagine, not a great situation. I needed a rest after 1h45 in the car, we had to get stuff out of the car, and then we needed to head off to the dinner!
Our hosts seem like lovely people, though we were little able to chat before we had to fly out the door.
All in all, we ended up at the dinner about 25 minutes late, but we weren’t the only ones. Our trainer, Maria, met us with Hudson and we proceeded to have dinner with some of our classmates.
14 dogs, puppy raisers, breeders who donated dogs, recipients and their support people, and staff – we had the training barn full! I was a bit nervous, and who wouldn’t be. Last night before my life was going to take a BIG change! Not to mention, Hudson really didn’t seem interested in me at all. But then, it was a big gathering, and hey who expects a dog to really be itself under those circumstances?
I did have one small dissappointment that night – neither Hudson’s breeder nor his puppy raisers were there. To be fair, his puppy raisers were not there because he was raised in prison. There is a program through my service dog organization where prisoners in minimum security prisons who have not committed a violent crime (including those against animals) can apply to raise a service dog puppy. 4 cell mates get the puppy at 8-10 weeks, and raise it until it is 12-14 months, when it is taken in to the training center. They housebreak it and teach it basic obedience, and volunteers come to take the puppy out in public to socialize it. While I am sad that I did not get to meet the people who raised Hudson, I am glad that this dog – my dog – brightened the lives of people in what is one of the most depressing places a person can be.
(for the record, what I’ve seen suggests that raising puppies in prisons not only helps the service dog organization and the prisoners during the time they are there, people who participate in these programs have lower recidivism rates than average – they are less likely to commit a next crime!)
After dinner was over, the recipents and their support people gathered at the back of the room in a circle, with us in an ‘inner ring’ and our support people surrounding us.
As we recieved our schedules, the first page gave us an idea as to why our dogs cost $22,000 to produce – our class of 14 dogs came from an original group of more than 25 dogs. 11 dogs were not able to work in public well enough for one reason or another, from temperment to health (Including Hudson’s brother Robby, who we later found out just didn’t have the confidence to work in strange situations). This doesn’t include the dogs that ‘flunked’ earlier in the program and were sent out as pets (for a large donation, as these dogs were already superlatively trained for pets).
We had a lot of reading for tonight, as we recieved a journal kept by a past recipient to give us an idea what is in store.