By Howard Weamer In 1992 my wife and I began raising Yeti, our first Canine Companion puppy. These dogs assist physically challenged companions by learning specialized skills like turning lights on and off, fetchings objects by name, alerting the person to sounds in their home, etc. Our job was to present CCI with an 18-month-old puppy that was well loved and socialized, liked to learn, and had basic manners. Yeti was a dog bred for intelligence and a desire to serve. She learned so fast that we felt the anxieties of parents with a firstborn; we were sure we were not working with her enough.
Along with the puppy, you acquire some obligations. You pay for food and medical care, which cost us about $2,300. You are provided a manual of instructions which gives you a schedule for introducing about 60 commands and suggestions on how to teach them to the puppy. You also have telephone backup from a training center in Santa Rosa, California.
Yeti spent months in the Sierra Mountains of California, went backpacking, attended college classes, ran innumerable miles in the grasslands and on beaches, and went with enthusiasm wherever our lives took us. Because we knew the parting was inevitable, we cherished every day we had Yeti. We knew that our pup would bring love and joy into someone else's life as she had ours. Yet eight months after we let her go, the tears still fall. The devotion we had to the program during the months of training had to carry us through the graduation, when our pup entered her life of service to another. Before returning Yeti to CCI, we attended a graduation. It showed us the incredible challenge, opportunity, and independence these dogs now offer their new companions. We await our second adventure with another puppy and hope we can do even better next time. Yeti is now living with a ten-year-old autistic boy who is paralyzed.
Howard Weamer lives in Yosemite, California