Canine Companions for Independence

My son received his first dog when he was about 10 or 11.  It changed our life for the better.  Tarella was with him for many years and he now has his second dog Lee.  Tarella lived a very long and happy life and recently passed away.  Here is a repost of my message saying goodbye.

Tarella – A special tail – Saying goodbye

There is nothing more clear and direct than the love of a dog. Tarella lifted the hearts of everyone she met from the time she was with her teenage puppy raiser, through her journey with Don, to her retirement with Don’s Dad and Lisa. She was always happy, always connecting with people, and everyone could feel it.

I remember arriving home from the team training at Canine Companions and letting her loose in our house for the first time. Two weeks of intensive human training (she was already an expert) had showed us what a professional she was – always eager to understand what she needed to do and thrilled to work. We didn’t realize there was switch, a button to trigger, and that exuberance would be let loose in our house with the simple word ‘release”. We were wide eyed as we watched her bound around indoors and outdoors and life was never the same again.

During our time living together, myself, Jamie, Don and Tarella, we trained more and more skills. I think she had close to 100 commands. She could take off Don’s sox and jeans, put them in the laundry, and run the wash – oops not that last one. But the “sock” command and “laundry” command were a couple of her favorites. One night she went into action a little pre-emptively. I turned around just in time to see Don airborne as she jerked so hard on his jeans that he sailed through the air and landed on the ground. We fell all over ourselves laughing. I’ll never forget sitting at opposite ends of the house teaching her to bring things to each of us. “Go to Mom”….”HERE Tarella!” and I could hear the toenails as she ran through the hallways tracking me down to deliver the pencil unmarked and with just a tiny bit of spit. We knew she wasn’t always angelic, Jamie’s hair ties and stuffed animals paid the price, but she was our angel. She brought us together, brought us into the amazing group of people that make up Canine Companions for Independence, and was there for Don every minute of school, rest, illness, hardship and joy. Life was hugely improved having her alongside him.

Don’s goal was to have permission to be completely independent – to not need any supervision with Tarella. He was one of the only CCI recipients to ever go back in and UPGrADE his dog’s classification. They proudly graduated with full service honors when he was old enough to qualify. It was a testament to their connection and his dedication to keeping her training high level.

It was very tough for Don to decide Tarella was ready to retire. She’d taken to letting him know she clocked out at 5pm, but he could work with that…it was the fears that came with losing her hearing and eyesight that made it time. Riding in the van was no longer a treat, it was something that made her shake with terror no matter how we tried to make it ok. We even fed her dinner as we were driving. Nothing helped. So, Don petitioned to CCI for a second service dog and prepared a retirement home for Tarella with his Dad. There was a brief glitch when she came back to him again, then he graduated with his second dog, Lee. A few years ago she settled in to retired life with Jim and Lisa. When they bought a vacation place by the lake (where Jim spends most of his time fishing) she fit right in. I heard stories of her riding on the golf cart and running through the woods. She had the prefect doggy retirement. Lots of love and fun. When ever Don would come around she’d position herself right next to his wheelchair. If Lee was there she’d just take the other side. He had bookends. But she was just as happy in retirement to grab her favorite stuffed toy and settle on the bed by the fireplace as he left.

Their last walk together. She’s wearing Lee’s vest on an overnight at my place.

I was the back-up caretaker person. When we had weekends together Tarella came to me all shampooed (and shedding) and I gave her lots of ABM lessons (body work that upgraded her brain body connection). We continued to bond with long walks that now involved lots of sniffing instead of trotting along at high speed beside the wheelchair. One visit she came to me listing to the side because of a mini-stroke. We worked all weekend and she went back home back in balance again and able to climb stairs and be comfy. Steady exercise, high quality diet, EFAs, short toenails, and her own ABM practitioner- the secrets to a long and healthy life.

Jamie said we should have taught Tarella sign language before she went deaf. She’d look at people speaking to her and try to guess what they were saying. From out side the car Jamie would dance around gesturing wildly for Tarella to lie down on the car seat and wait patiently for us to come out of the store. Tarella got it. I’m not sure who trained who on that one…. Some said the hearing and vision issues seemed to be pretty selective. Oh well, she was entitled. She worked for 11 years and earned lots of perks in retirement.

Throughout it all she was a joyful happy soul. She changed all of our lives for the better. Yesterday I got the call. She was gone. Tarella will be missed by everyone who knew her. Her name in the aborigine language of Australia….journey’s end.