It’s 5:25am as I write this. Macallan is fast asleep pressed beside me. His head is on my chest and his warm breath is slow and steady. Spike is curled up, pressing his back against my stomach and his head on Macallan. Macallan hates this but is so tolerant.

I’ve been thinking about my babies, the “C” litter, for a half an hour. I’ve been cuddled up in the dark wondering if I am enough. If I did enough to make them enough. Perfection for a service dog is not tangible. Yes, there are lists. Oh, so many check lists. Check lists for every single life stage, from birth to 18 mos. Hundreds of items on those check lists. But what really makes Service Dog’s enough isn’t the check lists of hundreds of skills and pages of tasks. It’s what’s happening this morning with Macallan. It’s the 5am cuddles. It’s the things you can’t quite name but you know are there. It’s the trust. It’s the reliability. It’s the loyalty. It’s the goofy way they can make you laugh in just the right moment, just the right way. It’s knowing in your bones they are enough.

I think about how much these babies have grown, changed, and matured. I’m so proud of who they are. I see their potential. 15 years of watching puppies and growing up dogs make it easy for me to see who they are and who they will be. Then, the anxieties creep in. They are just 18mos old. They are still such babies. They make silly choices sometimes. They forget themselves every now and then. They still, every little bit, zig when they should zag. Is it enough? Are we enough?

We are so careful about selecting our recipients. I am so invested in each and every one. I trust my gut on these matches. I know they are the right dogs. But then the creeping anxiety is always in the back of my head. Are you enough? Is it enough? Will they understand their mistakes and be patient as they finish growing up? I know they will. We’ve talked about it so many times. I know they have good expectations and they love their dogs so much already. I’m so excited for them, because I know. I know they still don’t have any idea what this will feel like in a year. I know they are about to find out how amazing this is. I know that feeling is always enough.

I think about my puppy raisers. My throat closes and tears fall as I think about how none of this would be possible without their selflessness. I know this day is a day full of both dread and hope for them. Is it enough? Is that feeling of knowing the last 18 mos of potty training, sleepless nights, chewed up items, and wondering if they are enough… is the feeling of watching their puppies change someone’s whole life enough? I am so lucky. I would clone this group of puppy raisers 1000 times over. I could have never even dreamed of a group this amazing. I know they are enough.

I think about my trainers, staff, and Vet Team. They have put their heart and soul into these puppies. They’ve been there for all 5. They’ve been there for every tummy ache, every wild hare day, every frustration, success, and silly moment. They know them differently than the rest of us. I hope they know none of this could happen without them. 5 lives are changed because of the thousands of hours of training, the countless scoops of poop, and all the veterinary advice. They are so so so enough.

For me, this year has been the fulfillment of a 15 year long vision. It’s been a passion project. It’s been 15 years of dreaming, 6 years of active setup, 4 years of preparation, and 18mos of watching it all come to fruition. I’ve struggled in the past with achieving a long term goal and then being restless and bored. I’ve often felt a little lost and frustrated after I’ve accomplished something. I tend to drive hard into things and then feel not quite sure what to do next when it’s done. But this project, it’s enough. I know exactly what I’m going to do next. I’m going to do it all over again. I’m going to press harder to be even better. It will both never be enough and finally be enough. so this afternoon, when I watch my puppies walk down in the graduation ceremony to their recipients, I know, I’ve found my enough.

Published by abigailwitthauer

Lover of animal behavior, impassioned for social justice, demander of service dog reform. Please bring wine and cheese.

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