Today is a bittersweet day. Today is Copper's first day of the rest of his life.
Actually, we've been prepping for this day for several months. Back in the beginning of March I was contacted by a woman with a T1D young son and she was interested in finding out more about the dogs I trained. She had heard about me from a previous client of mine who had a diabetes alert dog (DAD) that I had trained for another company the previous year and had recommended she contact me to talk more.
I instantly liked her. She was practical, had a streak of humor, and was open to the information I was telling her as I explained my program. The more I talked with her and heard about her family the more I thought about how Copper sounded like a perfect match. The great thing about Copper was that he had just started his scent training so he would be ready for them much sooner then if we selected a new dog candidate for them and started from scratch. I suggested Copper to her, sent pictures and waited. It didn't take her long to respond to my email with "Oh my gosh....I am in puppy love!!! He seems perfect!" From that point on I knew I had found a great place for Copper!
Meet the Heatherly's. Eric (Dad) and Anna (Mom) with their four adorable kids, Alish (far L), Frank (front L), Cohen (front R) and Baby Truett. They have been so patient the last couple months while Copper finishes up his training; especially Frank who will be Copper's forever T1D to keep tabs on. Like any T1D, Frank experiences many low and high blood sugars (what T1D doesn't) and the support of a DAD would mean everything to Frank as well as his parents who are always up front and center making sure Frank is happy and healthy. They all have been counting down the days and following Copper on social media and FINALLY the day has come for Copper to start the journey to meeting his forever family!
So, today, Copper and I loaded up the car and are headed to Ohio where the Heatherly's live. Placing a DAD is my favorite part of training service dogs. You get to see your student progress and all the work you've invested comes to fruition. I have no doubt in my mind that Copper is ready to make a difference. People frequently ask if it's difficult for me to have the dogs live with me, alert to my own blood sugar ranges, and spend so much time invested in molding the dogs to then send them on their way to live with someone else. The simple answer is, yes, it is hard but it's worth it. What people don't realize is that I've experienced the other side of the "leash" so to speak with DAD's. I'm a T1D myself, I know what it's like to have anxiety and fear over missing a dangerous low blood sugar at night. I personally have experienced the headaches and fatigue that comes along with multiple high blood sugars that you've already dosed with insulin to correct and now all you can do is wait for the insulin to do it's work. I personally know the benefits of having a DAD as a tool in your diabetes management toolbox and I know just how much of a help it will be to the entire family. As hard as it is to say goodbye to Copper, I know how much of a valued member of the family he is going to be for the Heatherly's. I will admit though, this placement is going to be a bit harder than previous ones for me. I really connected with Copper and it's been just him and I taking on the diabetes world for awhile. It'll be weird not having him as my sidekick.
Copper was a unique guy from the very beginning and ever since he showed up in our kitchen way back in the fall of last year, I knew that he was special. I feel like Alex and I took nothing and turned it into something. In the very beginning Copper was sick and weak and no one even wanted him for free. Now every time I take him out people tell me how they wish their dog was just like him. This guy is a true rags to riches story and I'm so happy that the Heatherly's found us and are ready to embrace Copper with open arms. I'm not sorry that Alex and I took him in; it was one of the best decisions we ever made.
This is only the beginning though, this isn't a goodbye, it's more of a "see you later." Copper is ready to spread his wings and fly and fulfill his purpose. He's ready to be a best friend, a good listener and comforting shoulder for when Frank needs it. Copper has certainly been that for me, and I am so honored that the little red puppy from the streets of Richmond found his way to our house. So on we go with our last road trip together. I'm always going to look back on our time together fondly. This guy rekindled my passion for rescue and helped teach me that it's possible to merge the rescue and service dog worlds successfully. So tally ho Copper, tally ho and keep your sights on the prize; you were born for this!