It happens every time I get a new NEADS puppy to raise. The second we leave the prison, a powerful signal travels up the leash and brainwashes me into believing the dog is mine. The dog is not mine. I was reminded of this in a big way recently when Dave at NEADS gently told me that he and Bear's trainer decided to switch the dog to another puppy raiser.
I briefly wondered if I could sue Dave and the trainer in family court.
Okay, I know. This is what I signed up for. In Weekends with Daisy I wrote about falling in love with a puppy who was never mine. Giving her up tore me into little pieces. But gluing myself back together wasn't as hard as you'd think. That's because I knew Daisy was making someone else's life better.
Because of that, it's gotten easier to say goodbye to each dog after Daisy. But losing a dog midway through the process is something I've never dealt with. Until now.
Dave's email wasn't a surprise. Bear is a golden retriever, which by default makes him more challenging to train than a Lab. His hearing works only intermittently. The command "down," often causes it to short out.
He doesn't calm as easily as a Lab does, either. Dave tells us the dogs should act like furry lumps on the ground until they're needed. Bear is more like a furry surveillance system. Once, I took him to an indoor soccer game and actually got nauseous watching him follow the action.
So, in an attempt to ease his adjustment when he's matched with a client, NEADS placed Bear with a new handler in prison and a new puppy raiser. The idea is to show him that change is good and no matter who he's with, he'll be safe.
I'm not so crazy about change. I miss Bear. On my first weekend without him, I got an email description of the field trips he took with his new puppy raiser. I actually felt jealous. There were photos attached. I peered closely at the pictures for signs that he looked forlorn, like maybe he was missing me. But Bear looked like ... Bear.
On Friday I'll be picking up my newest puppy: a four-month-old yellow Lab named Tinsel. I vow not to think of her as my dog the moment we leave the prison. I'll give it until we get home.