Sunday, March 14, 2010

NEADS graduation

I find it hard to believe that it was a week ago today, that I met up with the "Maine Puppy Chapter" and we all traveled down to Massachusetts to see a NEADS graduation. Kathleen has always told me that once you see a graduation, you will be a puppy raiser for life... and I can tell you, she was one hundred percent right!!! It was a wonderful experience and I hope to attend many, many more!!!

The graduation was held in this elegant hotel, and we arrived around noon. It is so nice to see that places like this are "dog friendly", and since we were heading over to the NEADS campus the next day, we had reservations to spend the night here. We got unpacked and settled into our surroundings and then went out to lunch - seven people and four dogs!!!

After lunch, we took advantage of the "city surroundings" and did a bit of training on the streets. The three puppies did real well (Pia - the black lab is a "real" service dog, so nothing of this was new to her)

It was such a pretty spring day, and we were already having so much fun, that I couldn't imagine it getting any better. Chester and I haven't had the opportunity to train in places like this.

When we got back to the hotel, it was filling fast with all kinds of folks that had come for the graduation. Naturally, there were the graduates themselves, and their families and friends, as well as puppy raisers from all over, (both past and present), volunteers and staff from NEADS, and folks just interested in the big event.

I tried to get pictures of the graduates as they were receiving their diplomas, but I was sitting a little too far back and the room was dark. All I can tell you, is watching the 21 handler/dog teams graduate was a very moving experience. There were several "types" of service dogs that graduated that day... everything from "full service dog".. to the "combat dogs" (for veterans).. hearing dogs, ministry dogs and "social" dogs. NEADS has a wide variety of dogs that they train.

The hallway after graduation was busy as well.. so it was hard to get good shots there, but I did get this picture of a recent graduate.

Aside from "simply" going to watch, we were there for a couple of very special reasons... one being that Kathleen's last puppy Harvey, was graduating. And here he is with his new handler. If there is any doubt that the puppy you raise will remember you... just take a look at Harvey's face as he sits here between his two favorite people!!!!

Kathleen got the chance to spend sometime with Harvey's new person. Probably swapping all sorts of great stories about him... maybe one day... I will have a chance to do that with Chester.

But the day wasn't without it's own surprise for Chester and I!!! Chester has a "sponsor".. which means that because these wonderful people made a (sizable) donation to
NEADS.. they have the honor of naming a puppy. The couple (right) in the picture are Chester's sponsors!!! AND when they found out that Chester was going to be there, they invited their friend (gentleman on the left). It was this gentleman's beloved golden who Chester was named after. They were all so pleased to see Chester and thinks he is turning into a fine dog... course it was a great honor for me to meet them!! (and they are readers of the blog... so a special hello to you all!!!!)

Certainly raising a service puppy is a big commitment, but it's actually just a very small piece of the puzzle when it comes down to it. They say "it takes a village to raise a child"... but I think that can certainly be said of a service dog as well. From the breeders who will donate these wonderful dogs.. to people who give their time and money.. to the trainers and the supporters of the handlers.. the list goes on and on.
After a very emotional afternoon, it was an elevator ride (first one) to the room for a little rest and then off to dinner with friends. The end to a great day. But the next blog will tell you all about our day at NEADS and working with Dave (head trainer)... so stay tuned....