Dear Ali,

by Jill Holtman

When I became your puppy raiser, the day that you would be leaving to go into formal service training seemed so far off. You were just five months old when you came to live here. Time always goes by so fast with everything, and with you it’s been no different. I blinked, and now here we are 16 months later and you’ve grown up. We have done so many things together, and both you and I have learned so much from each other. What a ride it has been, and I wouldn’t trade my experience with you for anything!

I’ve known for a few months now that you would be leaving by the end of the summer. While we continue to work on your skills, I’ve been making it a point to take the time and enjoy the moments with you and have fun! I took you on vacation to one of my favorite places which was a blast! And we’ve been doing the things that you love like play dates with other dogs, splashing around in your kiddie pool and swimming. I have loved teaching you things, but I love seeing you happy doing things that you love just as much.

I’ve been enjoying the little things like our quiet time on the deck in the evening where you get lots of belly rubs. Then there’s all of the snuggle time with you which is the best. And I’m still loving the funny things you do like how you sigh when you yawn, how you greet me with one of my slippers at the front door, and sit on my feet! You make me laugh every single day!

I was visiting a friend and we were on her porch when I got the call about your IFT date. This is the first time for me raising a puppy and there’s lots of different emotions that come with letting go. It can be happy and exciting, especially when I think about your potential future as an autism service dog for a child. And at the same time it’s bittersweet when I think of how much I’ll miss you and your presence here at home.

I don’t think that there is any right or wrong way to feel, rather to just allow yourself to experience whatever feelings you have and knowing that’s okay to do. it’s also especially important to remember why any puppy raiser does what they do. It’s ultimately for the dog that you raise to make a difference in somebody’s life. And seriously, how awesome is that?!

I know the time we have left together will go very fast. With that in mind I’ve been making a list of things to send with you and writing a letter to the foster family that you will be living with during your service training. It won’t take long for you to totally capture their hearts; you have that effect on people! In the meantime I’m looking forward to the memories we will make together over the next few weeks and will enjoy every minute that I can with you. I am so very proud of you Ali… I know in my heart that you’re ready to take the next step.

Sarah, Laura and Michael Holtman with BluePath Ali

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