I knew this day had to come and it did. First of the 3 pups — wee Pixie — has moved away from kith and kin and into a puppy raising home. This is the step a future service dog puppy often needs to continue the process of helping shape a solid, stable, social and nurturing puppy into a functional service dog for her future family. More about her future placement to come in the near future, but today’s focus is on the transition of a puppy from mom and sibs (and me and other humans she has gotten to know) after nearly 11 weeks of life. As the days shortened the puppies grew and grew and we saw Halloween come and go, Thanksgiving come and go, Chanukah, Winter Solstice, Christmas and Kwanzaa come and go, and now just after the new year, Pixie has her first big transition and the days begin to noticeably lengthen once again.
One advantage of raising 3 daughters from infancy to adulthood in the same town is getting to know their childhood friends grow up and flourish as well. And so it is admittedly thrilling for me to hand over the interim care of Pixie to Gwen and her fiancé, Chris. I met Gwen about six months after moving back to Cleveland in the fall of 1995. I had just agreed to foster the first of many abandoned litters of kittens in the early months of kitten season 1996. As my then oldest but still at that time an only daughter, Zena, 3, and I were tending to the kittens on my front porch, we saw then nearly 3 year old Gwen toddling down the street with her mom, EB. My first memory of Gwen was picking up an orphaned young kitten by the neck and me having to gently (and quickly!) explain how to most appropriately handle kittens. Gwen was a quick learner and she became a regular fixture in my home as the girls grew up (and 2 more daughters came along). We cemented the relationship as kin when Gwen adopted a rescue kitten (my umpteenth rescue litter), Frankie, for herself in 2010. So now Gwen, a doctoral graduate student at Case, and Chris, who works out of their home, are in a perfect position to be puppy raisers.
Pixie will continue to attend as many DIPs as possible, and I will have a regular, ongoing role in supporting her next phase of life. At some point in the next several weeks, Pixie will have a 3 night sleepover with her future family. The review of that experience will help frame a more realistic time line of the length of the puppy raising. As I write this, her sister Tribble and brother Shamrock are gently snoozing. Their first night separate. Sometimes the life of a service dog trainer is bittersweet! It has really been such a fun ride with the triplets. But I am looking forward to watching them all launch into their lives away from this hearth and home.