Photos by Allison Leigh Photography
Happy New Year!! I hope you all had a great New Year’s Eve. I know that a lot of people have been commenting on social media that 2016 was a terrible year but, for us, it was pretty great! We started the year off celebrating with some of our closest friends, got married (six months ago yesterday, how was it that long ago!?), traveled to Hawaii, started this blog, and I landed my dream job, which I start tomorrow! All in all, it was a pretty fabulous year for the both of us and we are so excited to see where 2017 takes us. Before we really get into 2017, we wanted to take some time to reflect on our little family this year, and let you get to know us a little bit better.
When we sat down with our pastor last spring, to discuss our wedding ceremony, he asked us a bunch of questions about what we are passionate about, what we do in our spare time, how we met, our goals for the future, etc. The things that kept coming up were our love for our friends and family, helping others, and our love of our dogs. Though we both love to try new things and lead a fairly active lifestyle, nothing really feels as important as the connections we make with others. I think that is a big part of what has lead us to our careers; Josh is an operations Fire Fighter with the City of Toronto, and I have spent the past four years working as an Event Coordinator doing fundraising events for a few different charities. The most recent charity I worked for was the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides, which leads us to these photos.
For the past two years I worked for Dog Guides, out of their Oakville office, doing fundraising, community events, and volunteer management. I loved my time there, and so did Josh. The place I left to go to Dog Guides was about an hour and a half from home, so we were thrilled when I landed a job only half an hour away. Shortly before I started working there, my family had to put down both our pet dogs, due to age, it was the first time in a decade that I didn’t have a dog. I shared that detail when I was interviewing for the position and told them that I was hopeful we would get another dog soon, three months later we got Morris – Alex, I doubt you read this, but if you do, you won that bet. For those of you wondering who Morris is, he is the yellow lab in these photos.
About two months after I started working at Dog Guides Josh and I agreed that it was time to get a dog of our own. Though I was working at Dog Guides and there was an opportunity to foster a dog for a year, we were still feeling like we wanted to get a forever dog, so we started meeting with breeders. I grew up with a Sheltie that looked identical to Lassie, and I had such a soft spot for them – I would squeal and run over to the dog any time I saw one, it was kind of ridiculous – so I was sure that was the dog I wanted. Josh and I drove out to Waterdown one day to look and them and I was SO excited, but something didn’t feel right. After we left that breeder, we got back in the car and both looked at each other and almost simultaneously said “this just isn’t right, we need to foster at least one dog first”, and that was that. On Monday, I walked into the puppy program office and said we were ready to foster, the Puppy Program Coordinator (hi Samantha!) high-fived me, signed us up, and gave me about 100 pages of reading to do.
Taking Morris home was SO exciting. We picked him up from a golf tournament/fundraiser that I was attending for work, then took the rest of the day off to go show him off to as many friends and family members as we could find, we were THRILLED! That first night however, was not so thrilling, it definitely gave us a taste of what life with a baby will be like. Over the next couple, somewhat sleep deprived, weeks we got into our groove. It was amazing to see him develop over the coming weeks and months, and we are so proud of how he has turned out!
Raising and training a Dog Guide, Guide Dog, Service Dog, Leader Dog or Therapy Dog, is a unique responsibility that I wasn’t entirely prepared for, yet am so thankful we did, and hope to do again. The thing that stood our the most to us was how many people you meet when training a dog, and how long a simple trip to the grocery store could take if you were feeling social that day. Josh and I both loved, and still do love, taking the opportunity to further educate people about Dog Guides. I’ll just take a moment here to throw in that LFC Dog Guides provides dogs in six different programs:
- Canine Vision Dog Guides for people who are blind or visually impaired
- Hearing Ear Dog Guides for people who are deaf or hard of hearing
- Service Dog Guides for people who have a physical disability
- Seizure Response Dog Guides for people who have epilepsy
- Autism Assistance Dog Guides for children who have autism spectrum disorder
- Diabetic Alert Dog Guides for people who have type 1 diabetes with hypoglycemic unawareness
During the first year of their lives, we don’t know which program they are going into, so we only teach them the basics and get them socialized/exposed to as much as we can. After the year (it’s really 10-14 months) of being fostered with a family, like Josh and I, they are selected for one of those six programs. Morris was selected for the Service Dog Guide program. Once they are selected for their program, they will go on to work with a professional for between four and six months, which is the stage Morris is currently in.
While they are in training, there can be an opportunity to take them home during long weekends or holidays. We knew that we were going have him back for Christmas, from December 23rd to January 3rd, and with me leaving my job at Dog Guides, I knew this might be our last opportunity to have him home with us…he is resting his head on my lap as I write this…I’m totally not crying right now. He will likely graduate this spring, then he will go off anywhere across Canada to help someone who needs him much more than we do…okay maybe I’m crying a little. Because we knew this would likely be our last time having him with us, we asked our friend Allison to get family photos with us and our fur dudes.
I’ll just take a minute to explain Odin a bit, it is his birthday after all! When we knew it was close to the time for Morris to get recalled (when they call them in for training) we started looking into getting a forever dog. From a quick Google search, I found ARF Ontario. They had a number of adorable dogs who were looking for a forever home, so we filled out an application. After a phone interview, we learned the dogs we were interested in had been adopted, but they had just received a couple litters of puppies who had been found out in the snow on a First Nations Reserve. They emailed us a photo of him, then we went for a meeting with his foster family and fell in love. We are so excited he is our forever puppy.
I am so incredibly grateful for this time we have had with both dogs at home, and for Allison’s photos of Josh and I with the dogs, we will cherish these forever! Tomorrow Morris goes back to school, and I go onto my new Event Coordinator position. It will be bitter sweet to give him back tomorrow morning, then start at this new job. I am really excited for this new journey for both my new job, and Morris’ new adventure serving someone who is in need of him. Thank you so much to everyone who helped us along this path, and a special thanks to Allison for these photos! I hope you all have a wonderful week, thank you for reading this whole thing – you’re a champ! Now onto enjoying a bunch of cute dog photos 🙂
ugh! those eyes kill me *insert crying emoji*
One of the things I wrote in my wedding vows was “I promise to hold your hand, even when we have two dogs”
My handsome dudes! Happy belated birthday Joshie 🙂