There is a constant stream of dogs coming and going in my life whether they are fosters from a shelter, client's dog's that come to me for training that stay with me only for a short time or service dog prospects that spend a bit longer with me before heading on their way to help a new family in need. I'm always excited when there's an open spot in my service dog program because I like the unknown possibilities that I get to choose from depending on what type of dog that I'm searching for.
On a regular trip to visit family in the central valley, I contacted a friend of mine who is the Executive Director of Kings County Animal Services (KCAS) located in Hanford, CA and asked if I could come take a look at what she had. KCAS is a plucky little rural county shelter and honestly one of my favorites. The staff is friendly, the kennels are always filled with hidden gems, and I never know what I'm going to find. I particularly like this shelter because the staff is honest and tells it like it is and I know I can trust their opinion if I mention I'm looking for something specific. It's not the prettiest shelter, but it makes up for it in gumption and the staff and volunteers work diligently to make sure the dogs get what they need and find homes that are good matches for their personality and breed. So, a little shout out to those of you in the central valley looking for a new family member - check out Kings County Animal Services and tell them I sent you! I promise you, you won't regret it.
I had quite a few dogs to choose from - upon arrival the Executive Director showed me around and pointed out several that she thought would make good service dogs candidates. She then left me to spend time to temperament test and get to know the dogs and told me to find her if I had any questions. I am quite familiar with the kennel set up - I visited frequently when I worked in the Behavior Department at Tony La Russa's Animal Rescue Foundation and it was my job to find adoptable candidates to bring back to the bay for adoption - so I had no trouble moving about the kennels to meet those that I liked. I scanned the puppy kennels quickly first, but didn't see anything that caught my eye so I moved on to spending a good hour going into kennels, all the while being bombarded with friendly and excited dogs of all sizes, and took out dogs to another greeting area so I could get a better feeling for their personality. After a time I had it narrowed down to a small black, "spicy" kelpie mix and a 45-ish pound cattle dog mix guy that honestly reminded me of Dodger in body, personalty and coloring. While I liked them both, and was relatively confident I could train both successfully there was something that was holding me back from committing to either one. The kelpie was nice, but sporadic in her interactions with me and very energetic and spazzy, while the cattle dog mix was basically another version of Dodger and I selfishly wanted some type of variety in my program dogs. I texted Alex (who is always is on standby via phone when I'm looking at potential new candidates) and voiced my concerns. After a few texts back and forth I concluded I'd take another look around to make sure.
I wandered back through the kennels, and on a whim, glanced back over the puppy kennels. I honestly didn't really want another puppy; Pippin was approaching 6 months and while progressing well in her training, was still a puppy. Two puppies is a whole lot of fun, but it is more work than just one.
That's when I found him. He was kenneled with another super cute brown puppy, but this little guy just stuck out to me. He was quiet, but still thankful for any attention that I gave him. He wagged his tail at kissy noises, and put his big paws up against the chain link when I reached out my hand. I was instantly in love. While my heart told me to go for it, my mind told me to slow down and take everything into consideration. He was a pittie mix, and being only a few months since we'd said goodbye to Gilligan I was a bit wary and gun shy of taking on another pittie mix. He would have to be perfect, and an ambassador for his breed if he was going to make it with me and my program where he would surely be in the public light - a lot. He was still young, and quite moldable, but I knew nothing about him or his personality. Did he have what it took to be a service dog?
I immediately called Alex and spent a good 30 minutes talking it through with him. My mind was telling me the kelpie was the "safer" choice but the pittie would be, for me personally, the more enjoyable choice to train.
"What do you always tell me?" Alex asked. "Always pick for personality, not looks. That's never failed you. It sounds like it's a clear choice - get the puppy."
That was it. I wanted the pittie puppy. Everyone at KCAS was wonderful in helping me get him loaded into the car and onto our way. He was big, already around 25 pounds and only about 3 months months old. Alex and I decided to name him Bruno, after the sweet hound in Disney's Cinderella, because his personality is very similar. Steadfast, sweet, methodical, and lumbering in this endearing way. I have to admit I was really excited about him and the possibilities to come on that drive home, and I still am. Keep tabs on our facebook and instagram page because you're about to be spammed with tons of pictures of his sweet guy!