On Monday, six of our dogs left our program to go work with the CIA. We could not be prouder of Coach, Elsa, Harmony, Oasis, Olive, and Zeus! These dogs were hand-picked by the CIA because of their unique abilities, including their energy, focus, and love of work, and they will go on to do great things with their new handlers.
Too often, however, dogs in our program that don’t go on to become service dogs are seen as failures. We say that they are not! These dogs are just as successful as the dogs that become service dogs.
Service dog work is just one type of work available for our dogs. True, because we are a service dog organization, our goal is to raise and train dogs to become working service dogs. However, each dog has a unique personality and set of skills that make them best suited to certain types of work. Sometimes that work might be acting as a counter balance for someone. Sometimes it might be alerting to sounds. Sometimes it might be recognizing a person’s anxiety and taking action to calm the person down.
And sometimes that work might be recognizing different smells. When they’re done with their training with the CIA, Zeus, Coach, Elsa, Harmony, Olive, and Oasis will be able to sniff out 19,000 explosive scents! Their ability to recognize and alert to these scents will save people’s lives. Pretty incredible!
We like to think that each puppy is on a journey, and we never know exactly where their path will take them. They start their journey with their whelping family for the first eight weeks of their lives. Their next and longest step is with their puppy raiser, who welcomes the puppy into their home at eight weeks old. Our raisers are amazing! They spend the next 16-18 months training that puppy, teaching them good house manners and 26 different cues. And everyone wants each dog to become a service dog.
The reality, though, is that not every dog is going to become a service dog. Only 50-60% of our dogs become service dogs. But that doesn’t mean the other 40-50% failed or that their raisers didn’t go a good job. It just means that service dog work wasn’t right for that dog and their journey is taking them down a different path.
Some dogs, like Coach, Elsa, Harmony, Oasis, Olive, and Zeus, have personalities and skills that will make them awesome CIA dogs. Some dogs, like Heritage, excel with the police. Some dogs join the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), and others join the UN. We hear wonderful things about our dogs that have taken a different path to become working dogs!
Sometimes a dog’s skills and personality make them best suited to life as a pet with a loving family. Does that mean the dog failed? Nope. It just means that they are doing what they were meant to do, and their puppy raisers gave them the best start possible.
We are proud of our dogs no matter what path they take, and we know that they will make a difference in people’s lives. We’re thankful to our puppy raisers who devote their time and hearts to our dogs!
Congratulations to Coach, Elsa, Harmony, Oasis, Olive, Zeus, their puppy raisers, and their new handlers in the CIA!