But I probably should.

March 8, 2010 at 11:22 pm 4 comments

I’ve spent the last few days stunned and upset and reclusive.

In the few months before Trego was called back to KSDS, Inc., in Washington, Kan., I honed a new speech.

No, it’s not going to be that hard to give her back, because I know she wants to work. When I pick up Trego’s vest, she gets excited and runs to the door. She wants to be in public, working… helping. So I’m excited for her to go to puppy college and I am excited to see what track she’ll choose. I’ll be fine with any specialty, but if she fails for health or temperament reasons, I’ll be devastated.

I was right.

When I opened the third major letter of my life with Trego (the first told me when to pick her up, the second when to take her back), I was expecting to read that she had chosen to be a guide dog. I knew I’d be surprised if she chose to be a service dog. But when I had that envelope in my hand, I didn’t even consider that the letter inside might tell me that she had been released from the program.

Beale and I were on the way to the library to return some books that were a couple of days overdue. I stopped at the mailbox, then debated whether to open the envelope before or after the library trip. I was too nervous? Anxious? Excited? to wait. I read the letter quickly. The first couple of lines of the letter raised my spirits… then…. tears. I began sobbing almost immediately. It took two days for me to stop.

Our library is connected to the local high school, so Beale and I drove past groups of high schoolers (carefully, and through the tears) to return my books. I had little patience and must admit to honking at several teenagers skateboarding in the street. I felt ridiculous, because I couldn’t figure out how I’d explain my reaction to people who had never been puppy raisers. The words sounded so stupid.

My dog failed out of puppy college. No, she’s not dead. She’s fine. She just has cataracts.

It seemed silly to sob about that. Silly to be so upset about Deb’s reference to her “behaviors.” When I first read the letter (and for two days afterward) I had no idea what that line meant. I work in special education, and “behaviors” are really bad. A kid who bites or throws feces or hits other kids has “behaviors.” I thought Trego was perfect (see the About page), so this reference to “behaviors” puzzled and offended me. I have since realized that Deb was referring to Trego’s tendency to bark at men when they were silent and it was dark. She sometimes seemed a little bit afraid of Jack when he’d go downstairs at night.

Now that I understand what Deb meant by “behaviors” and I have had a couple of days to calm down, I feel up to talking about Trego’s release. In fact, I think this moment is what Failures of a Puppy Raiser is all about. If I can’t talk about the bad times, then how can I expect any of us to be there for each other?

For the past few days, I have been avoiding anything and anyone associated with raising Trego. I didn’t want to be the one to tell people about her cataracts, and I wasn’t sure I could make it through those conversations without crying. I unsubscribed from our KSDS puppy raiser listserv to avoid the e-mails of announcements and congratulations for Trego’s siblings. I have learned from our friend Lisa’s blog that all of Trego’s siblings who were called back when she was have been accepted into puppy college. (Ellie, Lisa’s puppy from Trego’s litter, was released for lack of confidence a couple of months early. She now lives with Lisa and a little brother, Hosta.)*

I am also coming to terms with Trego’s life as a pet. I don’t know much about her future family, or even if it is a family. I know there is a man. Seriously, the suspense is killing me. I just e-mailed Deb to see what she can tell me about Trego’s future. I will, of course, let you know.

I know this entry is pretty scattered, but that is still how I feel about this whole phase of Trego’s life.

More on this later.

*Edit: One other puppy from Trego’s litter, Marion, was also career changed.

Love from Sacramento,



Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

I don’t want to talk about it. Some photos

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Erin  |  March 9, 2010 at 2:02 am

    My first puppy was Career Changed/Released from the Program at six months old, due to “aggression” it was an extremely hard time, for me as they made the decision without talking to our family about it. They just called us one evening, and told us they would be taking the dog the next day. A crushing, crushing thing to hear. As it turned out we got one more day but it was still rough.

    Since that time I’ve had to make decision to CC/release dogs myself, and I can tell you its not easier…the puppy I fostered for Wilderwood SErvice Dogs, was career changed and I had to be the deciding vote in that. Everyday after that I questioned weather that was the right thing to do but in the long run its about the dog, what will it be happiest doing.

    But all of that was just to say, we understand! ((Hugs))

  • 2. Lisa Rickards  |  March 11, 2010 at 1:49 am

    Gotta say I cried too… you did such an amazing job with Trego and it was so neat to see you blossom as a puppy raiser. I am so sorry about Trego – but I’m glad to have a CC’d dog buddy!

  • 3. Ally  |  March 16, 2010 at 11:37 pm

    Thank you, for sharing your raw emotion with us about it! I can’t say I fully understand because I haven’t had a pup career changed for health reasons that wanted to work so badly but I had an opposite experience for awhile where the pup I raised Hated working and yet the organization tried forcing him to work (to the extent of placing him with a handler before he made it apparent beyond a doubt that’s not the job he wanted). I’m sure it’s similar emotions so I feel your heartbreak. It’s never easy when something prevents the dogs from doing what they wish to do and it’s so frustrating when it’s beyond anyone’s control like with health issues. You, and Trego, are in our thoughts and applaud you for making the tough decision to not take her back as a cc because of her love for going out in public. You’re very strong to make such a difficult decision!

  • 4. Mandy and Cancun  |  March 19, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    I’s so sorry Becka. My career changes, no matter what the reason, have all been heartbreaking. I wasn’t terribly surprised when my last pup career changed, but I still sat on the phone crying the rest of the day. It just takes so much out of me, the whole process. Can I just say that I so wish puppy raisers like you blogged back when I first started raising in 1997? (Did blogs exist then? I don’t even know) because I really, really would have liked to know that I was not alone on the emotional roller coaster!

    take good care of yourself


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