So this is something I get asked about a lot; a lot of people ask me how can I bear to part with the dogs I look after and “do I not become attached to them?”.
I adore every single pup that comes to stay, whether it’s just for a night or for a lot longer. As you can imagine, it is extremely hard to say goodbye as they do become a part of the family. However, we obviously know from the beginning that they aren’t going to be around forever.
When we take on a new dog I always have a brief chat with their trainer and work out roughly when they might leave us but as their training progresses you get a feel of whether the pup is whizzing through or if there are certain areas that they need a bit more time on in order to build confidence. The trainers are very good at keeping you up to date with where they are with their training and when their test will be, etc.
Once the pup has completed their test, a meet is arranged with their intended recipient and they go and spend a couple of days together. If this goes well a final date is arranged for the pup to leave for their ‘pre-placement week’. You tend to know this at least a few weeks in advance to help prepare.
We always keep the last weekend before they leave free and have a lovely quiet weekend with lots of walking and cuddles!
Getting them ready to leave:
We take A LOT of photos of our pups so we like to produce a small photo book for their recipient, jam-packed with photos from their stay with us and we try to find the odd puppy photo to include if we can. We also write what we call a ‘handbook’ explaining what times the pup normally gets up for breakfast and what time they have dinner, their favourite toys and a bit about their character and any funny quirks they have. We just think it’s nice for the recipient to learn a little bit about them right from the off.
We also include our telephone number and email address in case the recipient would like to get in contact with us but they are not obliged to at all. Some recipients do contact you to let you know how they are getting on and some don’t. This is absolutely fine and individual to each recipient. It’s so lovely to hear that they have settled in okay but equally we respect the privacy of the recipient and understand entirely if they decide not to contact us.
When the day finally arrives, I make sure I have a packet of tissues and off we go to The Grange. We unload their ‘suitcase’ which has all of their favourite toys and any blankets or towels. Even if some of the toys or blankets look a bit manky, I don’t wash them to make sure they still smell familiar.
After lots of kisses and cuddles goodbye, off they go! They walk off with such confidence and it’s an incredibly proud moment knowing that all those many, many months (years!) of hardwork have paid off and they are going off to do what they have been trained to do.
Whilst I’m feeling sad I think of how much of a difference they are going to make to someone’s life and that certainly takes the edge off!
Here is a link to Sophie and Rusty’s story – an incredible partnership and one of the many stories that really shows what a difference these wonderful dogs can make!
The house does feel a little strange for a few days and a bit empty and I always find myself inadvertently putting my arm out to stroke an invisible dog, or looking down at my feet before I move, to make sure I’m not going to step on a tail!
Remember you’re not alone! We all go through this each time a pup leaves us and I find the support from other volunteers and Hearing Dog staff invaluable.
Its not normally very long before my phone rings and we have a date for a new pup to arrive! That’s when the excitement builds, I go out toy shopping (you don’t have to do this, I just can’t help myself!) and the whole cycle starts again!
I can’t stress enough, that although saying goodbye is hard, it is incredibly rewarding and I feel so proud to be part of a journey where confident and happy pups go on to make such a difference and form such wonderful partnerships with their recipients.
This is a photo of Honey, the last Hearing Dog we socialised, who is now out working with her recipient in Suffolk. *Super Proud* 🙂