Now don’t be confused, this little guy pictured to the right is not related to Leon, the Russian Marxist. He’s an eight-week-old black, male Labrador/Golden Retriever mix puppy, whose name just happens to be the same as the Russian theorist. I picked him up today at Canine Companions for Independence, and this cute little puppy will live with my family for the next eighteen months.
During that time, we will train him in the basic commands to become an assistance dog for someone who has a physical disability. But more importantly, we will socialize him to surroundings that he may encounter in his life as an assistance dog. This will entail taking Trotsky to restaurants and hotels, letting him ride on busses, trains, airplanes, and even boats, going up and down on elevators, plus going to department and grocery stores; every conceivable place his recipient would possibly go,
My family and I have been training service dogs for over five years now, and we love every minute of it. There are times when we lower our heads and sigh, and then clean up the mess, but that is no different than any regular puppy. But when you see what these dogs will ultimately do for a disabled person, it would astound you.
After the eighteen months he lives with us, he will then go off and be trained by professionals at Canine Companions, who will work with him for six more months in the commands specific to a person they feel he is best suited to assist. When you see these dogs at graduation, and the love the recipient has already developed for the dog after only being with it during a two-week training period at the end of the six-month professional training, it brings tears to your eyes. And believe me, Canine Companions definitely knows that’s what brings all us puppy raisers back to raise and train another dog. And we all willingly do it in order to help this wonderful organization provide someone in need of such care and love from a dog, no matter how many tears we shed when we have to turn them in.