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Buffy asked Clint if he wanted to write a post this week. But he is not quite ready. Maybe next week! So she asked me if I would share my thoughts on going through Team Training.

I feel honored that Buffy asked me and that she is letting me write a post for her again! If you remember she has only let me do so one other time! It was my post about Reflections on our service dog partnership! In that post, I shared my thoughts on the seventh anniversary of our partnership. And now I share about the beginnings of a new partnership. 

So much has happened since then! As you know Buffy retired last month. And last week I returned home with my new service dog partner. Bittersweet changes. But necessary ones.

When I went through Team Training seven and a half years ago to get Buffy we had a blizzard! We got more than thirty-six inches of snow in less than 24 hours. The timing of the snow and the logistics of getting that much snow cleared from the roadways impacted our training. 

February 2013 blizzard during Team Training!

We were able to learn the tasks our dogs knew and how to get them to perform each one. But our ability to do the usual amount of practice sessions and get out for field trips was greatly reduced. 

I was looking forward to returning to Team Training and participate in a more normal session. But this time the pandemic impacted our training. Although in different ways than the blizzard had done. 

Due to the restrictions imposed by COVID-19, we had a somewhat shorter than usual Team Training with fewer students. We wore masks whenever we were not in our rooms and practiced the new norm of social distancing. 

But we did get to participate in many practice sessions and go on several field trips! Which was fun and exciting! It was exhausting for me but I was so very grateful that we were able to do so many things.

As I prepared to attend Team Training there were so many emotions consuming my every thought. Much in the same way that Buffy shared last week. I wondered if my dog would be another black dog or a yellow one? A boy or another girl? Larger or smaller than Buffy? So many yet to be answered questions. 

The dogs for our Team Training class.

Top row: Clint, Irving, Furino, Hogan – Bottom row: Royce, Korbel, Bessie

I tried so hard to be open-minded. But deep in my heart, I was hoping for another black dog. After having a black dog by my side as a service dog for the past twenty-five years the thought of changing was hard. But I knew that the dog who best met my needs was what was most important. 

Eric, my son, went with me to Team Training. The same as when I went to get Buffy. It was great to spend this time with him and share the joys of getting a new service dog. I was grateful for his help, support, and encouraging words. And for his ability to keep me focused on the important parts of Team Training!

As you know from Buffy’s introduction of Clint last week I got a beautiful yellow boy! He is sweet and has a very fun personality. He is smart, eager to please, willing, and loves to learn new things! At this point in time, he is perfect for me in every way!

The first moment when Clint became mine!

Our Team Training class was small. There were five of us. We worked hard and encouraged each other when needed. The support and encouraging words from my classmates and the trainers were greatly appreciated. And most often timed perfectly!

Over the weekend we had some much-needed downtime. The time to rest and the less demanding schedule worked wonderfully to reenergize us for the busy upcoming week. 

Snuggle time!

A classmate and his wife organized a fun movie night complete with snacks and yummy homemade cookies! It was very relaxing. And enjoyable to spend time together chatting and sharing stories.  

Fun snacks for our movie night!

The days were filled with practice sessions, lectures, and field trips. Clint and I had a lot to learn! As each day passed we were beginning to learn and understand more about each other. But we sure did have a long ways to go to feel in sync with working together. 

Clint and I are just at the tip of beginning our partnership. And that ultimate ability to dance as one will take time. In the coming weeks and months, we will navigate this journey of learning about what each of us needs. And build a strong relationship that will carry us through for many years.

Coming home was exciting but also came with some trepidation. How would we adjust as a team? What would our days look like without the guidance of the trainers? Would I be able to provide Clint with everything he needed? And how long before we would start to feel connected as a team?

But also some other concerns as well. How would Buffy do with a new dog helping me? Would she be accepting of Clint doing most of the work? And how would I do with balancing the needs of a new dog and those of a retired dog?

I am very happy to share that we are all adjusting well. Much better than I anticipated. Buffy has been accepting of Clint helping me. And loves her few little jobs that she has been able to share with Clint. 

I am feeling more comfortable with balancing the needs of both dogs. And am enjoying the challenges that come with a new service dog partnership. Although there are times I’m feeling a bit inadequate with my skills as a service dog handler. But I am confident this will improve. I just need to be patient with myself. . . . because we are both adjusting to each other. And I know that takes time. 

Clint is an amazing dog who loves to work and learn new things. I look forward to the great things we will accomplish and the adventures we will share! I am honored to be at the end of his leash and have him by my side!


Our graduation video!