Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Five Years & Some Thoughts

It's pretty amazing how fast time flies, isn't it? I said that a lot while I was puppy raising almost two years ago now, but I've realized just how true that is in these last couple of passing seasons. Today I was randomly reflecting on the dreams of my past and I was thinking about Hobart and Dembre and all the good times we had working together. That season of my life was one of the most fulfilling and perhaps one of the most stretching, but things change.

These days I'm not living out huge dreams. I'm working almost full time as a waiter to save up for college, traveling here and there, and taking some college classes to be one step ahead going into my freshman year of college. Almost every day I think about the time I spent working with CCI and the great friendships that I made. I almost wish I could have those days back and get back the time I used to invest in adorable pups, but that's not where God has me now.

I've learned to step back a little bit and enjoy just impacting people's lives in smaller, less significant ways. I don't get to transform their freedom, but every day I have the chance to love people in a unique way, and to treat people as individuals. That's been a hard transition for me. Over the last year I've traveled some and done some community service work, but I feel like much of my time has been spent learning to enjoy not doing big things.

I haven't given up on big commitment stuff. In fact, I still wish I had the time to come back to CCI and raise more pups, but I know that's just not where I'm going right now. A lot of neat opportunities have arisen over the last few months and I've started to see that maybe letting go of CCI was a good thing for my personal walk.

Somewhere inside me I really wish nothing ever changed. It was the week of Thanksgiving five years ago that I told my family that I wanted to become a puppy raiser. That's half a decade ago. Times have changed, and so have I. I've gotten older and my dreams have transformed into other dreams that I'm pursuing no. It's not really a good or bad thing, but it exists and I have deal with it. I always thought at 25 I'd be puppy raising and I'd just keep going, but life doesn't always work that way.

If any of you that I connected with five years ago are still around puppy raising (which I know some of you are), I applaud your dedication. I dreamed of still puppy raising to this day, but I know that these next steps of life, the new friendships I've made, the prayers of I've prayed are all working together for a big and bright future. CCI was a section of that road for me, but it's not the whole road and I guess I have to say I'm excited to press forward into what's next and never forget where I've been.

~Elijah with no puppy, but an open heart. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

A New Season

A new development has occurred!

I have a friend who's 8 year old daughter has sever autism. They decided to get a dog for her to be somewhat of an assistance/therapy dog. I volunteered to help work with the dog on basic skills or a few months.

The puppy is 8 weeks old and his name is Asa, which in Hebrew means "Healer". He's a Goldendoodle pup. I plan on taking him for 2 to 3 months to help build a basic grounding in commands, crate training, house breaking, and walking well on a leash.

This isn't something I planned on doing and isn't something I would normally jump at the opportunity to do, because I don't have the structure of CCI trainers and suggestions behind me,  but I feel like God has opened the doors so that I have the ability to work with a pup and I'm excited to play the part in raising a dog who will hopefully help change a life!

More updates in the next week when I get the puppy.


Friday, August 16, 2013

Strange, huh?

#1 I'm back from Russia.

#2 The affect that we have as puppy raisers is pretty cool. Like two years ago I was at the dentist's office getting my teeth cleaned and I had Dembre with me. The hygienist told me that her husband was a physical therapist and that he might be interested in getting a CCI facility dog. I gave her some information on how she could get connected into CCI and never saw her again..

I was informed that today her husband graduated with a facility dog to work with his patients every day.

Weird, huh?

One little conversation two years ago leads to a lot of lives effected for the better!

I miss CCI every day!


Friday, May 31, 2013

3 Years Later (Remembering the journey)

This week I am celebrating my 3rd year since picking up my very first CCI puppy. On May 28th 2010 a rather awkward 13 year old with a bowl cut and a big smile walked through the doors of the doors of Canine Companions' North Central regional center.

That day I met Dembre... I handsome, adorable, loveable black Labrador Retriever/Golden Retriever cross. I fell in love that day- with CCI and with that 7 week old puppy. He changed my life.

Yep that was me. 
Over the next year and a half I bonded with a large number of other puppy raisers through this blog and at CCI classes and events. I dedicated a lot of my time to trying my best to bring up that little puppy to be a service dog that could change a life.

In 2011 I hugged that puppy who had changed my life a rather surreal farewell, put him in CCI's kennel and then left. My time with Dembre was over and I rested in that, hoping that someday that puppy would be a super hero.

A week later I started a new endeavor, one that taught me and stretched me and transformed me. that endeavor is named Hobart II. He came in the form of a bundle of yellow energy.
He wasn't quite as much of a dreamy dog as Dembre was. He was harder to work with and harder to understand and yet we bonded in a special way that is only possible between a puppy raiser and his charge.

In February, after 6 months of anticipation, Dembre graduated to go be a full time service dog in Minnesota. I proudly handed him over to Imelda realizing that at this point Dembre had a new life and a fulfilled mission. He was the super hero I had helped raise up.

Hobart's struggles continued and I, in the business of life, struggled to maintain control and to do my best as he grew older. Finally, October came with only one month left to work with my pup and so we kicked it into high gear and worked as hard as we could to prepare him for turn-in. A month later, feeling little more prepared, I patted Hobart on the head and left him, yet again hoping that by some chance he could be just like Dembre. There was no 3rd puppy to take home so I went on trying to live a "normal life.

Two months later I got a call. This call tore me to pieces and yet in other ways brought a sense of clarity. Hobart was released from the service dog program to become a pet. With a little bit of time we found him a home with a new loving family in North Carolina.

I drove out to meet part of his new family and wit a few tears and a feeling of happiness watched him jump into the car of his new family to head to a new home. Now he gets wonderful attention and is free to visit the beach on the weekends, fulfilling all of his puppyhood dreams and with a little big of thought I rested in the fact that he had gone home.

Then it all hit me. I waited patiently for a chance for puppy #3 but amidst the business of life none arose. I tried to ignore the feeling, the longing to change more lives, but it didn't go away and finally I had to confront it. What's next?

CCI has been my home, community, and much of my life over these last 3 years and I've loved pretty much every second of it. All of you have been amazing and I want to thank you as you've helped me learn grow and read what I've had to say through thick and think of life.

I've been talking about getting a third puppy for awhile now, but as of today that seems unlikely to happen in the next year. Everything in side of me never wants to let go of this miraculous journey that I have been a part of and have learned from, but sometimes change is necessary.

Just about now I was planning on bringing home a third pup, but amidst life I realized that maybe this isn't the season to make this decision. This summer I'll be headed to Russia for a month, and most of the rest of the summer will be filled with travel, business and alas few chances to train a dog.

I was looking at my calender and began to truly understand that life changes. Three years ago I was free to dedicate everything I had to the mission of CCI and to help raise extraordinary dogs for extraordinary people. It's my dream. Since I was little I've wanted to be a part of something big, but as I said life changes.

This is all a long and sorrowful way to say that if there's a puppy #3 (which I pray that there is) it will most likely not be in the near future. The more and more I've truly appreciated what I've been able to do as a puppy raiser, the more I've come to see that each puppy takes time, energy, and care that I seem to be lacking at the moment.

All of this may be emotional rambling or reminiscent fluff, but to me it's my life. Since I hit my teenage years I've always had a puppy by my side to help me get through and be who I am. Sometimes I don't understand why God lets things change. I hate it; I really do. All I wanted to do was be where I am... happy, content and in love with the mission of Canine Companions for Independence.

At the end of it all I (more than ever) appreciate everything God has done and all you have done. Whether or not my future holds extensive work with CCI, I plan on volunteering to temporarily foster dogs and to puppy sit to keep connected with the amazing work that CCI is doing. As I finish my Sophomore year of high school I look back and thank God that I took advantage of the life I've been given instead of simply embracing complacency.

THANK YOU all for being a part of my journey. No matter where I go, I look to follow God's lead. Over this last year He has lead me to work with a missions center in Virginia, travel throughout the Eastern part of the US speaking on college campuses about the value of human life, and to be a major part of my community. I trust He can use me this summer in Russia and wherever I am.

This is the hardest post I have ever had to write. I will continue to write as much as possible and will continue to pray that within the puppy raising circles God does great things.

With love, hope, and a heavy heart

~Elijah (just me)

Monday, April 1, 2013

Dembre's 3rd birthday.

Mr. Dembre turned 3 yesterday! 1,096 days ago a miracle was born. Who knew that he'd change me and mold me, graduate to become a perfect service dog in shining armor, and a great friend? I'm so thankful for the dog he's become :)

Happy April everyone!


Monday, March 4, 2013

The Winds of Change

As I still wait for pup #3 I must admit that I'm beginning to realize more and more how much life is changing. It was almost 3 years ago that I picked up Dembre. I've grown 3 years older during that time and  am now more than half way through high school. I just think it's finally hit me now so much later.

My work with Dembre was the best year and a 1/2 of my life and then Hobart was the next best year and a 1/2. It's over now, though. Those pups have grown up and found new lives. Now as I look forward to my last puppy in the foreseeable future I am feeling overly sentimental.

My work with CCI has helped me grow, think, feel, and try harder more than almost anything else in my life. It's hard for me realizing that, though, sometime in the future there may be a pup #4 that life changes.

When I had Dembre there was this feeling that I could just stay happy and in the moment forever, but that moment has changed. Now after months without a puppy I'm ready to start over with at least one more pup. This time I want to do it right; to do everything that I never "had time for" during the last 3 years. I want to give it my best, a better best than I  gave before.

I can't wait to begin again. Your support has gotten me through these 3 years and you awesome people have been so encouraging. I look forward to raising #3 with you as well!


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

What it feels like to NOT have a puppy

These last few months have been the strangest of my life. With Hobart living happily on the sunny shores of North Carolina and Dembre continuing to work hard in Minnesota and no puppy for me to raise right now I feel kinda useless.

I'm getting another puppy in May, but that feels like forever away. After Hobart's release last month I felt exhausted and kinda disappointed after a year and a half of hard work and no graduation. Now I'm starting to realize how much I miss having a puppy around the house.

With all of Hobart's quirks and the business of life I lost my true puppy raiser's vision. I lost sight of the truth of why I was puppy raising. It's always been about being a blessing and getting to have something to remember. I don't want to waste my high school years doing normal teenage things. Making a difference isn't that hard once you take the first step.

I honestly haven't missed anything more than I've missed these last few months away from CCI. I really an looking forward to a NEW start in puppy raising and a new chance to reach out to someone who is really looking forward to some extra independence.

Dembre and Hobart are happy now and so am I,  but it's time for a new journey. This may be my last pup for awhile (due to school and work and travel) and I want to make it count!

I can't wait to begin again!!!
~Elijah (waiting patiently) 

Thursday, January 10, 2013


Hobart and me

On Sunday I had the privilege of going with a puppy raiser friend of mine, Hobart, and two other pups up to Pittsburgh to meet part of Hobart's new family and to hand Mr. Hobart over to them :)
We met them in Pittsburgh, but he's  living on the Coast of North Carolina.

When I first came in to see Hobart he went wild... after 2 months without seeing him I was almost as enthusiastic when I got to hang out with him. I got to spend the 3 hour car ride sitting with him and he was perfectly happy to just hang around me :P

So we got to where we were meeting his new family and handed him over and he happily jumped in their car and was ready for an adventure! (You can count on Hobart for that).

Now he's happily living in a wonderful home in North Carolina. His family has a beach house where they take their pups on weekends, they have a dog just 4 months older than Hobart so now he has an energetic play mate, and he has a large yard to play in. His new family couldn't be more excited to have him and I don't blame them. He is made to be a great pet!

This home is Hobart's dream... He'll get to have an active (and much more carefree lifestyle) as well as having a family that expects less of him and yet cares about him. He loves attention and people and there's nothing I could want more for him than a great home.
as cute as ever

Hobart's just a little distracted
Hobart on the ride to PA
handsome little man
intently looking at the camera (the other one)
My friend's pup, Dudley! He's adorable!
My friend's pup, Hana! Isn't she pretty?
It seems strange, though. That chapter of my life (the one with Hobart) has closed... Perhaps he'll be a returning character in the future, but he's not my pup any more. Admittedly, I'll miss my little man. He will remain one of the goofiest and best looking dogs that I've ever worked with.

It's times like these when I really forget how the time has flown. It's kinda happy and sad. More than 3 years ago now I decided to puppy raise... In May of 2010 I got Dembre... In August 2011 he turned-in.... In February of 2012 he graduated.
In August of 2011 I picked up Hobart... In November of 2012 I turned him in... In December 2012 he got released... In January 2013 he found his way to his forever home...
I'm proud of my boys, but while I wait for pup #3 I just have to think about things change over time!

~Elijah (with a long wait til pup #3)