If you never got to read this letter from the husband of one of our puppy raisers, it may give you some insight into what life is like right now for us and in the upcoming weeks.
This is not a love letter; this is a letter of commendation. You are genuinely deserving of this recognition and the fact that it comes from someone that loves you should not diminish the honor.
The last few weeks have been tough. Tessa, your charge for the last 19 months, was surrendered to GDA to begin her final training to become a guide dog for the blind. This was not, “Do good, write and we will see you at Christmas”, this was goodbye.
Tessa was a member of the family, our baby, a sweet heart who wanted to play and please. She responded to your training and love because she unconditionally loved you and not because she understood her destiny. As she pressed her body against the fence on that faithful day, you understood her fear and the pleading in her eyes. You knelt down and with all the love and reassurance of any mother you said “Tessa, it’s time to become a hero.” The tears flowed down your face, your heart was breaking and yet you walked away.
At that moment you became my hero. Tessa did not understand but you did and the selfless sacrifice you made that day was enormous. Only someone who has borne witness during the last two years can understand and appreciate the significance of that sacrifice.
I have witnessed the joy and freedom that a guide dog brings; it is after all the gift of sight attached to a four legged companion that will also provide unconditional love. What greater gift could we bestow on anyone? The only thing that I failed to fully appreciate was the sacrifice that the truly dedicated puppy raiser is asked to make.
Is it possible to raise a puppy, do the required training and not become totally bonded to that brown eyed angel? If so, you choose the hard road. When you made the decision you committed without reservation. I reluctantly agreed, your dad questioned your sanity and along the way many offered their assessment of your apparent toughness i.e. “It’s a great program, but I just wouldn’t be able to give her up, I would just get too attached.” Many times I felt like saying this woman has the biggest heart in the world, she cries at movie previews and refuses to watch Lassie movies for fear of embarrassing herself.
As you made Tessa a part of your identity, I also watched in admiration as you attended obedience class, guide dog meetings and outings, read every book you could find on dog training and watched what’s his name on television. You would come home from walking Tessa in tears one afternoon stressing that she just wasn’t getting it and be beaming the next day when she performed well in class or on her walk. When you originally briefed me on responsibilities you stated that socialization was a primary goal and that entailed Tessa going with us to movies, dinner, shopping, trips, vacations etc. I did not realize it meant every time, every where even our anniversary! If Jane went, Tessa was by her side. Your identity became the woman who is raising a guide dog. As we watched TV at night Tessa was belly up in your lap as you talked to her about how she was doing in training, alternately praising and scolding but always reminding her that she was to be a hero one day.
When the notice from GDA arrived and the date was set I watched and listened as you struggled to accept the inevitable. Your first response was to announce a 30 day boot camp for Tessa in an effort to ensure that all she had learned was fresh in her memory. Then it was, we need to go here and do this before Tessa is gone. Finally as the day drew near the tears started to come more frequently as the realization of the last walk, the last car ride, the last meal and the last play time became a reality. I still choke up remembering you on your knees looking Tessa straight in the eye and telling her to listen to the trainers.
I truly believe that few people possess the strength and character necessary to love so deeply, work so hard and then willingly sacrifice it all for another. Jane Ellen Broome you are my hero and I am very proud to be your husband.