The age for when a service dog retires varies and depends on many factors. Sadly some dogs have to retire early due to a medical condition. And sometimes a traumatic event can happen that will cause the dog to no longer be comfortable working.
Fortunately, neither of these happened to me. Instead, I am getting older and starting to show signs of slowing down. And some tasks are getting harder for me to easily perform. For a while, these were subtle but, as happens with aging, these changes are becoming more prominent.
My mom and I have been talking about retirement over the past few months. And making plans for what would be best for me. A very hard discussion to have but a necessary one. It makes me sad when I think about retiring.
All my life I have been a working dog. Way back when I was a wee little puppy I began the early training to fulfill my destiny of becoming a service dog. I worked hard learning my skills while with my puppy raisers and then with my trainer in professional training. For the past seven and a half years I have been working with my mom.
Whew… that seems like a long time to be working, doesn’t it? But I have loved my job so it hasn’t felt too much like work. Just an extra special time with my mom making her life easier.
So what is the process for retirement and what does all of this mean? I will get to stay with my mom which makes me happy! But this isn’t always possible.
When some service dogs retire their partners are not in a position where they can keep the retired dog when they get a new partner. In a case like this, the retired dog sometimes goes back with their puppy raiser. Or goes to live with a friend or other family member.
My mom will go back to the same school where I came from. She went through the application process late last year. And has been on the waiting list. Being on the waiting list means that when there is a dog that has the qualities my mom needs she will be invited to attend Team Training again.
In retirement, I can lounge on the couch anytime!
My mom and I were aware that the call would come with that invitation. But I think we were both in denial. Neither one of us are ready for the changes that will be taking place.
With my mom getting a successor service dog I will no longer be the one who goes with her to her appointments or shopping or out to dinner. Instead, I will stay home with my sisters, Kippy and Roo. I will get to lounge on the couch and play whenever I want.
I think it will be hard for me to adjust to these changes. How will I know my mom is okay when she goes out with her new partner? Will that new dog know what my mom needs? Maybe it will be easier once I meet the dog. But for now that unknown feels worrisome to me. I want to be sure my mom is okay.
But you know what my mom did tell me? Even when she comes home with her new partner I will still be able to do some things to help her at home. The new dog and I will share in helping our mom. Isn’t that exciting?
In my post, My pesky little sister! I told you about some of my family members. One was Onyx, a Flat-Coated Retriever, that was my mom’s service dog before me. She retired like I’m doing now. When I came home with my mom as her new partner Onyx and I shared some of the jobs for helping my mom. Just like I’m going to do with my mom’s new service dog!
In retirement, I can run and play anytime!
So, my mom did get that invitation to Team Training. Which means she will be going this week to meet her new partner. My brother, Eric, will take my mom and stay with her during Team Training like he did when she was partnered with me.
During this past week, my mom has been packing and getting things ready to go. I have been following her and staying close by to help when she needs me. This has been hard for me and my mom. Whenever my mom has gone away I have always gone with her. But not this time.
I will be staying home with my dad and my sisters, Kippy and Roo. And I’m sure we will talk with my mom every day! But I sure will miss her.
This is a very bittersweet time for me and my mom. Transitions and changes are difficult. We both know that it is time for me to retire but that doesn’t make it easy. Do you have grandparents or other family members that have retired? Some people find the adjustment to retirement challenging . . . just like me.
Although in some ways these changes are also exciting. I will get a new brother or sister to play with. And I will get to enjoy retirement while the younger dog helps my mom. I will even be able to teach this new dog some of the ways to best help my mom!
Maybe in retirement, I will get lots of extra treats!
I will continue to work with my mom on my Rally skills. And get ready to compete in the next level. I will also continue my blog so I can keep sharing new and exciting things with all of you. And I might even let my mom’s new dog do some posts! This way you can follow along and learn about how a new partnership grows and develops.
So, keep following my blog. And share with your friends so they can subscribe and follow along, too.
My mom shared some beautiful things about me on FaceBook. I wanted to include her thoughts on my retirement and some of the ways I have made a difference in her life.
One of the hardest parts of a service dog partnership is retirement. How do you begin to make those decisions? How do you even think about having a new partner by your side? You do it out of love and respect for that beautiful soul who has worked so hard to give you independence. And brought you joy on even the hardest days.
Buffy has enriched my life in unimaginable ways. She has given me the confidence to venture out alone to my many appointments because I knew she was there to help in any way I needed. She has helped me feel included and visible in a society where it can be easy for people to look away when there are differences. And she has brought many smiles and much joy to anyone who crossed our path.
Buffy has made opportunities possible that I had only held as dreams in my heart. Together (with Denise) we wrote a children’s book, “Blogger Dog Buffy! Service Dog”, to help kids learn about the amazing job a service dog does to enhance the independence of their partner. And we started a blog to further the education.
Together we embarked on a training journey that went beyond her service dog work. Buffy gave me the confidence to show again in Obedience and Rally. With both the training and showing we have been blessed by so many kind and amazing people, many of whom have become friends.
Over the years of being partnered together, we each learned what the other needed. Our partnership became comfortable and predictable. We danced together as one.
The thought of starting over seems overwhelming but necessary. A service dog gives me the independence I need so that I can live each day to the fullest. Over time I will learn what my new partner needs and the same will be true for them. It will take time but one day we too will dance as one.
Buffy has taken me on an incredible journey of love, hope, and joy! I am a better person because of the lessons she taught me. And the ways she has shown me how to live and love unconditionally.
It is hard and heartbreaking to be retiring Buffy. But in my heart, I do know that this is the right thing to be doing for her. She will stay with me and have the opportunity to fully enjoy her retirement years. She will get to lounge on the couch, play whenever she wants, and be a little (maybe a lot!) more spoiled!
I love you my Buffers! I am grateful for the years we had together as working partners and look forward to sharing in the joys of your retirement. Thank you, my precious girl, for loving me and giving me the gift of independence!
I will be going next week to get a successor service dog. I know that adjusting to a new dog will be challenging. But I am confident that my next partner will be just as amazing as Buffy in his or her own way.
Thank you, May and Lauren, for raising Buffy and for the beautiful gift of friendship. Thank you, LA, for training Buffy and matching me with the dog that was perfect for me in every way! And thank you, Denise, for making dreams come true!