Hi! Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Bishop and I’m a 20-month-old yellow lab. I’m also the newest member of Akron Children’s Doggie Brigade.
YEA! My mom, Staicey Scholtz, has been a member with her other dogs (Houston, Tucker & Elroy) since 2004. Both Elroy and I are a little “special.”
Now, before you think I’m bragging, let me explain. The reason I’m so special is because I’m a Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) puppy.
CCI provides highly-trained assistance dogs for children and adults with disabilities, free of charge. The most advanced technology capable of transforming the lives of people with disabilities has a cold nose and a warm heart!
It all began in 2009 when my mom, also known as a volunteer puppy-raiser, contacted CCI to inquire about raising a service dog. She learned that there is a high demand for people willing to take a cute, little puff-ball of a puppy at 8 weeks of age and raise, love and train it for the next 13 to 18 months, before returning it back to CCI for further training.
Here’s a little history of my story: CCI breeds more than 600 puppies a year. My ear tattoo says “10610,” which means I was born in 2010 and was the 610th puppy born to CCI that year.
We are all born and raised for the first 8 weeks of our lives in Santa Rosa, CA, with a volunteer breeder-caretaker (BC). BCs are required to live within a 90-mile radius of CCI’s headquarters in Santa Rosa and are responsible for whelping litters, as well as the 8 weeks socialization period before turn-in.
All puppies in the same litter are assigned a letter of the alphabet, and then we all get a name that starts with that letter. So, yep, you guessed it! My litter was the “B” litter born to a black lab mom and yellow lab dad.
There were 8 puppies in my litter, both blacks and yellows. Bella, Bristol, Brenda, Buffy, Beaumont, Burke, Burney & me, Bishop! So my mom doesn’t get to name me! I come named from CCI.
After I’m 8 weeks old, I fly on a big, scary airplane to a puppy-raiser (PR) somewhere in the United States. In addition to their national headquarters in Northern CA, CCI has 4 other regional facilities: Oceanside, CA, Orlando, FL, Medford, NY, and Delaware, OH.
Back in 2009, after my mom was approved to be a PR (after she filled out some paperwork and did an interview), she found out that Elroy was coming to Ohio in July. Elroy was her 1st service dog in-training and one that left me big paws to fill! He grew up to be a service dog to a wonderful, young woman in Minnesota.
But back to MY story – can you tell I like attention? My PR mom picked me up in December 2010. I was cute and adorable with a green ear (tattoo ink doesn’t come off for a few washings!). I think I remember her mumbling under her breath, “Why did I get a puppy to potty train in December? Ahhhh…” but, I thought I was being good.
So I’ve been growing and learning every day. I knew 30 commands before I went back to Delaware’s training center this spring. Most of the commands are basic obedience commands, like your dogs know. Others are a bit more specific to what I’ll do when I grow up.
For example, my “UP” command is when I’m supposed to stand up on my hind legs and put my front paws on a surface. I’ve heard CCI trainers will build on this command to teach me how to turn on and off a light switch!
I also know how to hold things in my mouth…for someday I may carry packages or groceries for my person. Since I’ve been 5 months old, I’ve been training out in public to learn my social manners and public etiquette. I’ve been to countless grocery stores, restaurants, churches, gyms, stadiums, movie theaters, pretty much wherever my mom goes.
And just this month, I took my first airplane ride to learn how to behave in the cabin of a plane. (I charmed the flight crew, especially the pilot who let me in the cockpit.)
My mom thought I’d make a great therapy dog. A good “back-up” job because only 40% of the dogs turned in to CCI go on to become assistance dogs.
And guess what, turns out I didn’t have what it takes to be a service dog after all. Once I went back to Columbus, they called my mom to tell her I’d been released from the program. Bummer.
But good news for Akron Children’s Hospital, right? So that’s my story…..I’m a proud new member of the Doggie Brigade!
I’m now making the rounds of my new job in life – a certified therapy dog. Look for me in the halls of the hospital…..I’d really love to meet you!