Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Darby has been placed!

It has been a long 8 months since I dropped Darby off in Florida.  I thought he was going to be placed right away and that I would hear about how wonderful he was all the time and rainbows and butterflies would appear and everyone would do a happy dance.  Well I soon found out that Darby refused to work for anyone even on the simple things like sit and down.  This crushed my heart as I knew he knew almost everything possible but if he would only do it for me, he was not going to make it as a service dog.  I tried to stay positive knowing that Chris would do everything in her power to make it work and would tell me the truth if he wasn't going to make it.  

Darby "helping" me pack for our trip to drop him off

Chris started having Darby run around loose in the yard while she worked with the other dogs in the kennel one at a time on leash.  Darby soon got super jealous and kept trying to do what she was asking the other dogs to do.  Every so often she would reward him too but would basically ignore him until it got to the point he was begging to be put on leash and work.  She said that he didn't start engaging and wanting to work for her until 2 weeks after his second birthday.  Then he was a completely different dog.  We learned a very important thing from this; it is better to wait until the dog is 2 years old to come in for advanced training.  They are more mature and better able to handle going into the kennel life and working for someone else.  Yes Darby was 20 months old which seems super close to 2 years old but the 4 months were needed for him to just grow up.

So I was back doing my happy dance waiting for butterflies and rainbows thinking he would then be placed with someone.  Chris thought about placing him with a man who had a stroke and needed a brace dog to walk with.  I got excited!  Then we found out that Darby hated the brace harness and would refuse to do anything while it was on.  He also would randomly pull which if he was going to be placed with this man, could never ever happen.  So Darby wasn't placed and the waiting continued.

I was then able to see Darby in Florida for the first time in 6 months when I flew down there for the Cesar Millan Live show.  This is when I realized even if he wasn't with someone yet he was HAPPY.  He came out to play with me in the yard but happily and willingly went back into the kennel when it was time to go.  He also had two girlfriends Crysta and Cooper (Ice's aunts) who thought he was pretty darn awesome.  Chris and I discussed some people he might be placed with and it was pretty sure he would go into partner training starting the next month.

Darby playing in the pool wondering who was letting all the water out
My happy handsome boy
We ended up randomly deciding that I should come down and help Chris with partner training since there were going to be a ton of people in it and it would be a really good learning experience for me.  In between leaving Florida and going back, I found out that Darby's allergies were coming back and if they got really bad and needed to be treated all the time, someone with a disability probably couldn't afford that so if this happened he would have to be released.  It was around this time I resigned myself to the fact that what is meant to happen will happen.  There was nothing wrong with Darby being a well loved pet dog if he didn't make it to service dog status.    

 Right before I came down I found out that Darby's allergies had cleared up and the man Darby was supposed to be in partner training with was in the hospital getting treated for a skin condition so he wasn't going to be able to participate in this partner training but would do one with him in 2 weeks.  I was happy but didn't want to get too excited as it might not happen.  Darby could even start partner training with someone and then not finish it if the placement didn't work out.  As you can see at this point my super optimistic outlook on what was going to happen was turning more cynical.

I didn't hear anything for a couple weeks and was really afraid to ask if Darby was placed.  I knew that the partner training that was supposed to happen didn't but wasn't sure when the next one was.  One day I was emailing Chris my usual update on Ice and Serena and randomly thought about Darby.  I decided to ask how he was doing and braced myself for the worse.  Chris didn't respond back right away, which of course isn't unusual as we all have super busy schedules but me being slightly neurotic, assumed it was because something was wrong with Darby and she was debating how she would tell me.  

This is why I nearly fell out of my chair when she emailed me back saying the reason it took her so long to respond was because she was debating whether to make the decision to place Darby with a young man in a wheelchair and had just decided that it would work and DARBY HAD A DADDY!!  She also said that they would begin partner training the following Monday.  Oh man I was bouncing up and down and I am pretty sure I squealed with excitement a few times.  But the the neurotic cynical part of me told myself to remember that they had never met before, that there was a chance Darby would hate this man or that he would be afraid of his wheelchair or that he would refuse to work for him.  So I twiddled my thumbs attempting not to think about how awesome it would be if it worked.  Then I got a friend request from someone who had Darby as his profile picture.  I friended him back thinking this had to be Darby's new daddy and then got this message on my Facebook wall:

Hi Sarah,
You don't know me, but I'm friends with Katelyn Martin and I'm on the MAWPS waiting list and I'm going Monday to meet Darby! He looks like a cool dude and I wanted to thank you from the bottom of my heart for Darby, because I know he wouldn't be my baby if he hasn't been yours first. Thank you so much.

I cried. Butterflies and rainbows appeared. I didn't care anymore that they hadn't met yet or that they still had two weeks of intense training to make it through, this was going to work. It had to work. I admit that on Monday I kept checking Ryan's Facebook page for a Darby update hoping it would be something positive and wonderful and how they were instantly in love and it was like a romantic movie where they ran in slow motion into each other's arms and fell instantly in love and lived happily ever after. Well there wasn't slow motion with dramatic rain and soft focus but this picture came up and that was good enough for me:

Over the past week I have been reveling in Darby and Ryan photos and updates.  I didn't really make it public that Darby had been placed as I really wanted them to make it through at least a week of training and didn't want to jinx it.  I then got an email on Friday from Chris saying that Darby LOVES Ryan and that they were doing fantastic together.  She wouldn't tell me that if it wasn't true. That was it, I was telling everyone! I was like a proud parent who asks people if they want to see a picture of their kid then pulls out a plastic foldout picture holder thing that ends up unfolding and reaching the floor but everyone feels obligated to look at all 100,000 photos and listen to you talk about how your child is the best child in the world while secretly they are wishing that had never agreed to this.  Yeah, I am that person.  Luckily, Darby has a fan club and everyone of my friends actually really did want to hear about Darby.  

After a really long hard day of training

Darby spent one night on the floor and now gets to do this

Working in a grocery store and being awesome

I know Ryan has been working his butt off learning how to work with a dog while in public keeping them both safe and not in anyone's way.  They are doing wonderful together. Apparently Darby has been retrieving things for Ryan and when Darby is loose playing at MAWP, will only come to Ryan and ignores everyone else.  Ryan's parents are also wonderful with Darby.  Ryan's dad plays frisbee with him and Ryan's mom gives him endless bellyrubs. They both call him their "grand-dog".  I also found out that at home Ryan has a swimming pool with a waterfall.  Darby is going to pass out; his very own person who lets him sleep in the bed AND endless access to water?  All of Darby's dreams have come true!  I am sure there will be more Ryan and Darby updates on this blog but for now I will leave you with this picture that Ryan posted this morning:

I am off to go dance through fields of flowers with a double rainbow overhead, butterflies floating around me and unicorns grazing next to me.  I am on cloud nice.


  1. Sarah, this is such wonderful news for you, Darby and Ryan. It's wonderful to have been able to watch your journey with Darby and now see him with Ryan. I'm not an emotional person, but it brings tears of happiness to my eyes! Great job, girl! Can't wait to see more of Darby and Ice!
    -Tina McCartney

  2. Sarah they are a match made in heaven! Ryan has learned so much and it only gets better each day. I am so happy you both connected. Darby is so smart and sometimes it seems he is there to demonstrate the task for all of us who are there with our dogs. He has his job assignment now. He will have many years to help Ryan. They are a great team. Sometimes patience is the key and it seems it was for Darby. Ryan and Darby were meant to be together and that is exactly what has happened. You did a great job!
    Janet and Canen


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