April 28, 2014

Which One Could It Be??

Have you ever been so excited that you think you are just going to cry at any moment?

I have been living like that for the past 7 weeks!  Only 5 more days to go and I don't know if I can hold it in until then!

The history:  A couple of years ago we were playing at our favorite inclusive playground, Clemyjontri Park.  The park manager was there with an adorable little yellow Labrador in a wrapped in a yellow Service Dog in Training vest.  I sat down and chatted with her and Bridger was quickly enamored with this furry, four-legged ball of fun.  I had looked into different programs but after talking with her about the program she was a volunteer puppy raiser for, Canine Companions for Independence, and I knew we had found the perfect match.

We applied for a skilled companion dog - which is a very involved process including a lengthy application, doctor and therapist letters, several interviews, lots of photos, etc. We attended our final in-person interview last July at the training facility in New York.  I have never been more impressed with an organization in my life.  The trainers, facility, program and protocol were unmatched by any other organization.  We attended an introductory lecture for a couple hours about the program and dogs.  Lance, who joined me for the visit, had his choice to stay in the dorm room and play electronics or join me.  He chose to join me and took notes and asked questions to the instructor along the way. {insert swelling heart of love for this sweet big brother}  Also joining us was one of our favorite people of all time, Bridger's Special Ed preschool teacher for 3 years, Ms. Lisa. {insert swelling heart of love for this sweet lady that has given me a great path to start on and confidence in the educational side of the Special Life}  After the lecture we practiced some dog handling to see how Bridger would react.  It was going to be the perfect tool for him in the years of challenges that lie ahead of him.  We were told it would be a 2 year wait from that point to receive a dog.

Fast forward 9 months to last month when I unexpectedly received a phone call from CCI that they have two dogs that they believe would be a perfect match for Bridger and they invited us up for the intensive 2 week training to be matched with his service companion.  I couldn't stop laughing/crying/laughing all day. . . actually, scratch the all day part. I still am laughing and crying about it.  

Saturday, I received this postcard in the mail and I just about lost it. . . 

Either Bridger or I have been carrying it around in our hands for two days straight now and we can't stop staring at it.  It is the pictures of all of the dogs that will be at the team training with us.  Two of those dogs were decided to be good matches for Bridger and one will be going home with him.  Which one will it be?  Will it be Hickory? (We gotta work on saying that) Will it be Georgia? (We've been practicing - he has it down to "Jo-Jah")  Will it be Bo? (so very easy for Bridger to say and he already has a ginormous stuffed dog he calls "Bo" - how cool would that be?)

We take off for Medford, NY on Sunday for our 2 week expedition.  I have never been away from home with Bridger for 2 weeks.  Sizing up the equipment needs and planning for the unknowns is overwhelming.  This whole adventure is too exciting and important to overlook the littlest of details.  However, as long as there is time I will keep planning -- so I hope the rest of this week would just fly by already before my head explodes with excitement.

Never, in a million years, would I have predicted that a service dog would be part of my life.  There are so many unexpected elements to this Life with a Side of Special, and Alan and I just look at each other and laugh with every new twist and turn this journey takes.  Some twists are not as appreciated. . . but THIS one, it just takes the cake.

Stay tuned for daily updates during Team Training coming to you from Medford, NY, May 5-16!