by Jeannie Fleming-Gifford, Puppy Raiser
I’m not going to sugarcoat this. Puppies are a lot of work. Oh yes, they are snuggly and adorable, and playful and funny. But, they are a lot of work. How do I know? I’ve been down this road before. In fact, I’ve been down this road many times before.
Most recently, I raised BluePath Izzy who is now nearing the completion of her training. Izzy was my buddy for nearly 14 months. I watched her grow from an 8 week old puppy into a beautiful, mature and almost well-behaved 16 month old dog who was ready to enter training for the work she was born to do. Saying good-bye and staying connected through her months of training, I was proud. I was sad. And, I was a bit relieved.
I worked to focus on other areas of my life, from my job, to my list of to-dos that had never seemed to get done with a puppy in my life. I waited to raise again for nearly 8 months. There was always something else that seemed to need my focus.
Then, one day I was scrolling through social media and a picture of a beautiful black lab puppy caught my eye. Before I could even think, my heart had cued my fingers and I was typing “I’d love to raise him…” or something like that. Within hours, the amazing team at BluePath had contacted me and it looked like this puppy, now known as Mason, would be coming to Ohio.
I went home from work with my secret. At dinner, I began explaining to my husband that I had seen a post on social media and, as a result, there would be a new puppy heading our way. I’ve been married long enough that my husband just shook his head and smiled. He reminded me that I had said “no puppy until June and no boy puppy.”
It was March and a little boy Labrador retriever was heading my way.
As soon as our conversation ended, I logged on to chewy.com where I purchased a new crate, some toys and began preparing our home for this new addition.
Mason was expected to arrive March 9. A team of volunteers were set up to transport Mason across New York, through Pennsylvania and then to the border of Ohio where I would pick up this little guy. Plans fell through as a volunteer fell ill. I went back to work as his travel was reworked.
Through that week, I began to hear about this new virus and its impact in New York. As the week went on I received news that the Governor here in Ohio was suspending traditional school operations for three weeks. This would also impact my work and my family. And, in the midst of all these changes, volunteers stepped up and again there were plans for this puppy to arrive in my home.
Mason arrived on Sunday, March 15. It’s been two weeks that seems like two years. Schools, businesses, restaurants, and even Starbucks is closed.
With Mason’s arrival, I am thrust into the simplicity of puppyhood. My last few minutes before bed are spent standing in my yard begging him to “get busy” but also taking in the stars. In the morning, I drink my coffee sitting on my kitchen floor. My coffee cup in one hand, a toy in the other, I attempt to keep those sharp puppy teeth appropriately redirected. All the moments in between I balance a new work schedule filled with online meetings, supporting my daughter in her homeschool adventures and playing, feeding and pottying this pup who arrived in March instead of June.
Mason has brought the simplicity, routine and playfulness that is otherwise missing from life. Though I know he will be a gift one day for someone else, today this sweet little pup is a gift to me.
Thanks BluePath, not only for your mission of providing autism service dogs, but for creating a volunteer opportunity that gives the volunteer as much as the volunteer can give the mission of the organization.