Sunday – a morning of rest, breakfast, and lots of snuggles. We then headed out for a lovely morning walk around the neighborhood as Winslow impresses me with his focus and lack of acknowledgement of the squirrel’s that try to taunt him. We’ve improved our walking rhythm and he’s doing great in his heal position. Good boy Winslow. Well done!

Now for some excitement… who wants to go for a car ride? Pitter patter, down the stairs and right into the front seat floor where he curls up to start our outing for the day. Off to Bethel for Public Access Training. Now it’s Winslow’s turn to help me, he is the expert here attending on Sundays since he was a wee pup and this is my first time. We arrive ‘get dressed’ in our spiffy vest and meet trainer Courtney and other raiser/handlers and sidekicks. Wow – how fun is this? We meet at an ice cream shop, 7 teams sitting on the ground together and our puppies practice ‘settling’ (laying down) and ignoring the world while everyone enjoys there various delicious treats! Ok, now this is my kind of training. I get to have a cutie pie next to me as I sit and listen to the other raiser/handler stories and see their gorgeous pups! Cool, right?

Trainer Courtney says it’s time to get moving and we take a walk down the street to do a little shopping, umm training, at Agway. Courtney is wonderful, as always, explaining the differences between pet dog training and service dog training. She suggests I adjust the leash and encourage Winslow to keep his head up and make eye contact. This helps keep his focus on me and not the busy street. While a little uncoordinated at accomplishing this on the way there, we rocked our walk back to the car a bit later. While in Agway, I learned about some of the obedience training Winslow is currently working on so that when he goes to his youth/young adult handler he will be exceptionally trained and ready to be their sidekick with the least amount of effort or work on their part. (Oh… and Courtney helps adjust Winslow’s new blue harness from our shopping trip yesterday and he’s much happier as he walks proud in his awesome new TESSD vest.)

I don’t believe Winslow’s head was even rested on the car seat and he’s out like a light. The mental focus of being a good boy is exhausting and he quietly sleeps the entire ride home. I’ll admit, I think I was just as exhausted! When we arrive home, Beau’s Grammie is at the house letting him outside. Yea! More new friends to meet and a surge of energy for a few romps around the yard and with Beau. Then, an awesome discovery – a frisbee in the bushes! Woohoo, I swear I could hear him asking – can we play? Can we play? Yes, Winslow it’s vacation, of course we can play! Now, let me say this. My Beau is amazing – tricks galore, but the idea of ‘fetch’ is lost on him. So much so that I recently received a gift from my kids that has the statement “fetch it yourself”. LOL.  So, I’ve just had the best time with this Labrador that is truly a retriever. And kudos to his raisers, because his drop it is flawless.

The rest of the night was quite relaxing, dinner, tv, a delicious bully stick and early to bed! We need to be rested for our final day of adventure…

Honestly, I was a little relieved when I woke up thinking Winslow goes home today. Well that thought went away so quickly when I receive a text in the morning from his raisers saying they’re home early and I can drop him off whenever I want to. My heart sinks. But, I weasel a few more hours of our time together for our planned afternoon adventure. Winslow and Beau are quite happy to meet my friend Andrea. As we discuss all things Exceptional Sidekick. They get a long opportunity to practice their ‘settle’, cause well, you know I do like to brainstorm (ok – well talk). The boys show Andrea the fun homemade agility course we played on for a bit this morning ‘table, over, under, through’, but are mostly just happy to relax in the shade and sleep to the sound of our conversation. It’s now time to load up and head to Newtown as my Part-time puppy raiser adventures come to a close.

Over the course of the weekend, many neighbors inquired about my ‘new dog’ and I proudly explained why Winslow was vacationing with me. This program truly is Exceptional – I’ve had the privilege of having some of these handlers stories shared with me and each one strengthens my belief  and passion for this amazing family by choice that Abby Hill has created. I’ve heard first hand how their dogs have figuratively and literally saved their lives, helped them leave their houses, finish their education, stopped their self-harm, and reduced their anxiety. How lucky am I that I got to be a small part of raising one of these heroes?

Winslow, how you have stolen our hearts already! You are such a gentleman, with a happy puppy spirit. I love how you wake up full of enthusiasm, love, and puppy kisses. How your eyes show compassion and kindness. Truly, you are an exceptional SDiT. Beau and I hope we get the chance to share another adventure with you soon! xoxo

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