Someone To Love
Last Sunday, a tiny-but-pudgy ball of puppy fat and soft white fur was brought to my house. As I held him, my fingers got lost in his velvety fat rolls, and I knew it was the kind of love that would endure all violations of house rules, messes on the carpet, sleepless nights, and chewed shoes. And when his green-brown eyes met mine, I knew that this was the kind of love that would last forever, even knowing this four-legged angel would only be with me for one year.
Cale, named for JJ Cale, a musician born in Oklahoma City, has been chosen for an extraordinary life. Dogs are extraordinary in any case, giving unconditionally, forgiving immediately, listening and understanding without judgment. But this dog, this baby dog, will become someone’s link to independence. He will become someone’s truest friend and his or her bridge to freedom. He will, if I do my job right, wear the cape that says, “I am special.”
I am a Puppy Raiser, and though it is true this is not a title that means I elevate puppies onto pedestals of Roman God worthiness. My “job,” a misnomer that implies work for pay, is to care for and teach this baby dog until he becomes a mature, calm, socialized, and well-mannered adult, at which time he will learn his trade: that of a service dog. My reward for having done this well is that this dog will be taken away from me.
Heartbreaking, right? Yes I’m sure it will be heartbreaking, and I will meet his departure with tears (okay sobs). Why would I do this? Why would I subject my heart to such certain pain and suffering? Why would I put in the time, the money, the endless effort required to house a weeks-old, unhousetrained puppy? And why, on this great earth, would I do this voluntarily, knowing at the end I will be hopelessly attached and heartbroken when he goes?
The answer is simple: he is destined for much greater things than to protect me from emotional pain! He might be someone’s hands some day, or their legs, or their lifeline. How can I be so selfish as to hoard him for myself, knowing his gifts were meant for another? The truth is, after my heart breaks, it will grow back even bigger. This is the most selfish reason of all to do what I do: it makes me feel good.