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A New Year with New Beginnings: Reflections on My Time Puppy Raising

Good Dog! Bubba left for advanced service dog training on December 2. It was difficult for Passion and me, his puppy raisers. We had poured love, time, and energy into him; but it was time for him to go to the next step in his training. We had always known this would happen, yet that time always felt like it was far away and could not sneak up on us. It did. Unexpectedly, the date was set for December 2. We prepared ourselves as best we could to say our final goodbyes before he left for his flight.

I was able to do one last outing with Good Dog! Bubba at Fresno Chaffee Zoo. I thrust any thoughts of sadness of him leaving out of my mind. We had the best time we ever had together. I laughed along with my family at his curiosity in the animals and took hundreds of photos. We made the absolute most of what we could.

service dog in training at the Fresno Zoo
A Field Trip to the Fresno Chaffee Zoo

Good Dog! Bubba is now at advanced (or finishing) training with Samantha Quackenbush, Good Dog’s lead trainer. Under her guidance, he will learn more difficult commands and perfect the things we puppy raisers had worked hard on. He was certainly ready to go, but it was still difficult to watch him leave. He will always occupy an incredibly special place in my heart, and I cannot wait to see what he becomes.

Yellow labrador retriever in snow
Bubba exploring the snow in Nebraska

After he left for Nebraska (where Samantha lives), a friend asked me a question I had already asked myself: Would I puppy raise again? Though I know my life right now prevents me from doing it again, I still wondered if I would do it again. I replied to my friend, “Yes, even though the goodbyes are painful and even though it is tough to raise a puppy to become a service dog, I would definitely do it again. Why? Because it was and is worth it. It will be worth it to see the smiles of the child and family Good Dog’s service canines go to help their lives change for the better because a dog is by their side. I want more families to experience that.”

It seems so long ago since Good Dog! Bubba left. The crate seems so empty at night and the hung-up leashes seem so dusty now. But it’s okay. One day, another puppy will fill the crate at night and smile and pant at the end of the leash just like Good Dog! Bubba had in our home. That puppy will grow up, destined for that special purpose of hopefully becoming a service dog.

A note to my dear Good Dog! Bubba:

I miss you a lot! I hope you are having fun at Samantha’s and learning a lot. As Good Dog’s Founder and Executive Director Laura Sylvester likes to say, “Inside every service dog is the heart of a puppy raiser.” I know Passion’s and my hearts are inside you, and we will never forget that. Happy new year! I cannot wait to see all you do in 2021!

Good Dog! Bubba's first car ride home with Nicki in August (left) and the last car ride when they said goodbye on November 30 (right)

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