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Graduates Share Inspiration & Hope

Updated: Apr 9, 2021

Good Dog! Luka's family shared their experience at our most recent graduation. Their words of encouragement, inspiration and hope are too beautiful not to share, enjoy:

Pamela: Hi! Thank you Rick! I’m Pamela, this is my husband Kelly and this guy right here is Luka. Naiya, our ten year old daughter is Luka’s girl and she has two big brothers Brayden and Kyler who are here with us today.

We are so honored to be here celebrating all four graduating teams as well as everyone involved in getting them here to this moment! Deep breath, you did it, Congratulations, Mamas, you now have some pretty sweet acronyms stuck in your head for the rest of your life, and if you ever go into a ridiculously loud and unclean cafe with crazy people who are totally unprofessional and throw food at you, you’ll know just what to do!!!! Not to mention you have an amazing new furever friend to bring home to your kiddo, who will bring blessings you can’t even begin to imagine yet!

Kelly: It feels so surreal to be standing here, at this camp, sharing about our Good Dog! Journey. We definitely believe that everything happens for a reason and in the exact time that it should. Which is why we are so thrilled for all of you right now!!! I don’t know about you, but we love looking back at our life and seeing all the ways God perfectly pieced things together for us. Our Good Dog! Story is one of those times.

For those of you who don’t know, Idyllwild Pines is our home. The house we live in, just up on the hill, is the same house I grew up in. Both my grandpa and my dad served as camp directors here, and now after working under my father-in law for the past seven years, today actually is my first official day as executive director, no it’s not April fools…and I can’t think of a more fitting way to be able to celebrate that transition then to be here honoring the work you did this week.

So how did we, this camp, and Good Dog! all come together?

Three years ago we joined an online class geared towards parents and professionals, called Natural Play Therapy. We instantly became friends with Julie Sando who was leading the class. She helped us learn things we had never known, and she helped us discover even bigger possibilities for Naiya, through the world of communicating through spelling.

Julie had been friends with the Sylvesters for years. It was through her, we were introduced to their son Elliot, and soon after Laura and Rick as well. They visited camp as part of Elliot’s 18th manly birthday. It was a magical day, and even though it was cold we soon discovered Elliot had a natural talent for throwing tomahawks, our portion of that day ended around a fire in the camp lounge with Elliot inspiring us with incredibly encouraging words. He told us to always believe that Naiya had more to say than she was able to speak.

The rest is history. We began our spelling journey, and Pamela started following Laura on social media. Which soon led to her following not just the Good Dog Organization…but EVERY dog, trainer and anyone she could possibly connect with that had a connection to Good Dog Service Canines…she is a bit of a social media stalker…

It didn’t take too long before Pamela was telling me about this new adventure we were going to be taking , Fundraising and all.

Pamela: It was just 8 months ago that Luka and I were exactly where you are now. I remember sitting in the audience proud of what we had accomplished but terrified at the same time, about what was next.

You see, my family came to graduation but Naiya struggled pretty big. Meeting Luka for the first time didn’t exactly produce fire works and music. In fact her body tried to pinch him at one point when he got too close. Kelly stayed with her inside during the ceremony to keep her regulated, and when it was over they left pretty quickly. Luka and I stayed one more night.

I had made it all the way through training and graduation without crying. Bonding with Luka had been a blast for me and I wanted to believe this was all going to be a piece of cake!! But here I was, sitting with Luka on my lap, alone in our room, tears rolling down my face, totally afraid to go home.

I looked at Luka and he looked back at me with his big brown eyes! “Hey buddy”, I said “you ready for this? It’s a big job! She’s gunna love you. It may just take some time. I’m a little afraid, but we can do it together. I know you were chosen for us for a reason! We’ve got this right!?”

You guys, I just have to say, prepare your hearts, because if you are anything like me, there will never be another animal you fall more in love with than the one sitting with you today.

This guy, licked my tear stained face, and wagged his happy butt, labs have the happiest butts!!! And in that moment, I knew that HE was totally ready. This was what he was born to do. It wasn’t going to be about him, it was going to be about me staying strong as a leader, but letting go of expectations. It was going to be about me, letting what was supposed to happen, happen organically. It was going to be about me recognizing it would not always be perfect and easy and that’s okay!

As I drove home the next day, every song that played brought tears to my eyes. There were happy tears, scared tears, and doubt filled tears... while Luka slept in the backseat, I tearfully thought about what it was going to look like to re-enter into reality. The emotions were all encompassing! But so needed.

As you venture home to your own realities, I would like to encourage you, if you haven’t already done so, to let yourself feel all the things!

The first few months with your dogs home are going to be an incredible roller coaster of bonding, doubt, growth, unconditional love, tears, and grace!!! A whole lot of Grace! So give yourself space before you enter in, to process that!!!!

And … Get yourself ready to be okay with both the Amazing moments AND the Hard. Moments. Because the hard will make the Amazing feel like magic!!! And, I can tell you from experience, the magic is beautiful!

When your kiddo kisses your pups cheek and pulls him in for a hug. Magic. Or when your pup crawls in your kids lap all on his own because he senses comfort is needed. Magic. Or when you can finally go for a walk because your dog helps your child feel grounded! Magic. Or when you start to see the thing you feared most, for us it was the interaction between the two of them during intense body dysregulation, becoming a dance that you are figuring out together, a dance that does not have to look perfect, but in the end brings comfort and peace and giggles and hugs! Magic!

I was afraid of bringing him into our hard. I thought, if we struggled, we might mess this perfect guy up. But that’s not what happened. Instead, the struggles brought us all closer together and helped us learn how to do this life as a team.

I just had to Embrace what life brought us, let go of fear, and do what I knew how to do.

Our flow doesn’t look like any other Good Dog! family’s, because Luka is, for us, exactly what WE need. And that is the beauty of this Good Dog! program that teaches with love and focuses on bonding first and foremost.

I know that Your dogs are going to fit in perfectly with YOUR stories too.

Kelly: Before we jumped, head first, into this Good Dog! Family we had no idea how life changing a dog could really be for Naiya. But now, we tell each other every day, that we could not imagine going through this season of our life without him! Through all the imperfections life brings. He has been such a blessing and just as much a gift for Pamela, myself and our boys, as he is for Naiya. For any partners out there here a few quick tips: • Some of you may not be ready to relinquish your role as pack leader for a time, to that I would say…trust the process. • Be ready to see a strength in your partner that may surprise you, cheer them on…and trust the process • This amazing puppers that you are inviting into your family has the potential to change your world forever, be patient and…trust the process. We are so thrilled for you all to discover your own blessings through this journey! We, and the rest of your Good Dog! Family will be on the side lines cheering you on as you watch your own magic unfold! — Whether you think you are or not, if you are sitting here today with your puppers by your side…you are indeed ready to journey forward and…Trust the process!

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