What a rollercoaster!

What a Rollercoaster!

Wow, what an emotional rollercoaster week it’s been!

We…
-graduated 4 sessions—3 facilities, 34 kids, and 19 dogs in total.  Woohoo!!
-held a great volunteer meeting—and welcomed 10 new volunteers!
-saw even more support for our upcoming Mistle Tails gala from local businesses

Then we found out we lost one of our past students.  He died early Sunday morning.

We are often asked if it’s difficult to work with these kids and with these dogs.  If we get emotional…if we get attached.  It’s simple answer really.

Is it difficult?  Sometimes, but it’s totally worth it.

Do we get emotional and attached?  Absolutely.

The loss of this young man, W, rocked Tina and I to the core.  He was 16 years old and had his whole life ahead of him.  His smile was huge and infectious, with a chuckle to match.  We were recalling stories of him ice skating down the path with one of the dogs on an icy day, and hearing him talk about his dreams for the future on another.  He loved walking the dogs, although his favorite was a brown and white pitty named Petey.  Every picture he took with him had that big smile (from both him and the dog!)

Yes, we become invested in these kids.  We want them to succeed, to grow, to dream.  We are cheerleaders in their corners, even years after they leave the program.  We are grateful for the opportunities to be positive parts of their lives, even for a short time, and to get a glimpse of who they truly are.  Often, they put on a mask (or many masks) for the world around them, but we have a chance to see the real kids inside…ones they can’t, or don’t, hide from their dogs.  We hear bits of conversations they have with their dogs.  We see the gentleness and caring that they show, sometimes when they think no one is watching.

These moments stick with us.  They imprint and we carry them.

So when I think back on our time with W, my heart hurts.  Many tears have been shed, but I am also grateful.  Grateful to have known him, grateful to have been able to teach him, and to have learned from him, too.  Grateful for the last time we got to see him smile.

In this season of thanks, I am also extremely grateful for my partner facilitators and volunteers.  I am surrounded by such amazing and caring people in this Teacher’s Pet family…

-Nicole (CFY, JJC)