Our daughter, Emma, received her best gift a few days after Christmas when we drove out to the airport and picked up Lexus, an 8 week old yellow lab puppy. Lexus is on loan, really. She is a Canine Companions for Independence puppy. Emma has volunteered to raise her and begin the basic training over the next 16 months or so. After that, Lexus will go back to the training program in California to continue learning how to be a service dog.
This is going to be exciting! Of course, it's been a long time since we've had a puppy in the house.
We've forgotten a lot. Fortunately, Emma has a mentor who has raised 5 puppies for the program. Mitzi comes over regularly to check in and make sure Lexus is doing well and we are still sane.
What we've learned so far....
Puppies are a lot like babies. They wake up at night, cry, want to be held, get hungry, and have tantrums.
It's a good idea to sleep when the puppy is sleeping.
One can accomplish anything: toenail trimming, ear cleaning, baths, etc, as long as there's a spoon with peanut butter to lick off. (the puppy, not you)
Don't give the puppy attention while they are whining or barking. If you do, the puppy learns to whine or bark when they want attention. This is easier said than done, especially when the bark is ear piercing. It is also difficult until you learn which whine means, "Let me out now or you'll spend the next hour cleaning my crate."
It's cold outside at 3 am when puppy has to go out and pee. Especially in January.
Puppy needs exercise. Play with the puppy and take them for walks, but at this young age, it doesn't take much to tire them. Like all babies and toddlers, they need their naps or they get cranky. A cranky puppy is not fun.
A regular rhythm works wonders. This takes awhile to establish, so be prepared to put up with puppy tantrums at first. It's worth the work.
Toys purchased at pet shops aren't nearly as exciting as shoes, slippers, the fringe on the carpet, and my sweater.
Klezmer music will calm Lexus down quicker than anything at nap time. Maybe she's Jewish?
Cradling Lexus in my arms will calm me down quicker than anything... any time of the day.
The best news a puppy raiser can get, after they've turned in their dog and finished their hard work, is that their dog has made it through the advanced training and has been assigned to be a service dog for someone who has a disability and uses a wheelchair. It's going to be hard to give up Lexus when the time comes, but knowing the goal makes it wonderfully worthwhile. If she does graduate, hopefully Emma will be able to go to California for the graduation ceremony and to be the one to hand her over to her new owner.
What a journey this will be!