Most graduations boast mortar boards, robes and cheers as the grads leave their comfort zone for the next step of life. But unlike other more typical ceremonies, the one taking place at noon on Friday, May 13, had no caps and gowns. Instead there were boxes of tissues and tears along with tail wagging and cheers.
The event was the Canine Companions for Independence graduation of ten dog-and-human teams at its Baylor Scott and White Health — Kinkeade Campus in Irving .
After years of being trained for their roles as life-changing companions for “individuals with physical and developmental disabilities” from Houston, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Keller, Cleburne and others areas of North Texas, these ten dogs were all summa cum laude graduates.
With an SRO crowd filling the Canine Training Center, it was heart rending to see the puppy raisers formally present their canines to the human, who “will begin their journey toward a more independent life.”
Prior to graduation, the human partners spent two weeks bonding with their dogs at the Campus thanks to cottages on the property.
And while this part of the program was truly gratifying, the teary part of the day’s activities was the handing over of the new class of 17 Labradors and Golden Retrievers for their formal training by their families who have raised them for more than a year. Even the most hardened observer found it hard to believe that after living and working with these remarkable animals that the puppy raisers could give them up. For puppy raiser Dawn Thompson, Freckles was the first puppy that she had raised for the program. Just prior to the handover as she and Freckles checked out the new dog-friendly pond with Diane Howard, she admitted that it was going to be a rough experience.
Freckles and her classmates would go through a carefully monitored six-to-mine-month training course at the facility. Those that passed the initial temperament and health evaluation would be trained to work around wheelchairs and learn more than 40 commands like pulling, switching on-and-off lights and retrieve.
But as difficult as it was to turn over their puppies, all the raisers were reminded that the pooches were destined for a greater mission.
In addition to donations, Canine Companions for Independence at Baylor Scott and White Health – Kinkeade Campus is looking for volunteers. Information on both can be found here!