Honorable Mention: “What Tombre Taught Us,” by Kim deArrillaga

By Guest Contributor November 7, 2016 15:43

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What Tombre Taught Us

By Kim deArrillaga

As a puppy-raiser for Canine Companions for Independence, my husband, Steve, and I raised five potential service dogs. When I initially broached the subject with my husband, he said “sure” in a vague “sometime in the distant future” frame of mind. I picked up our first CCI pup about 3 weeks later. Since that day, our lives were never the same.

When I was a child, I was a very deep sleeper. I remember going on vacation to Santa Barbara once, where our motel was located between the ocean and the railroad tracks. The tracks were about 100 feet from our room and the trains ran through several times a night. I slept right through their rumble and noise, no problem. Then I grew up and became a puppy raiser. I learned to hear the “I have to go” whine at 3:00 am, from three houses down the street. I eventually learned to wake up just from the intense stare only a dog can do when it’s 7am and they want to go out…..or eat….or just get your attention.

When people asked “Is it hard to give them up?” I always told them, “Yes, it’s very hard. In life, anything worthwhile is hard — the struggle is what gives the meaning to our lessons. The pups that have passed through our lives taught us so many things: trust, love, giving, receiving, compassion, forgiveness, and most important, how to let go and how to say goodbye. And each pup has taught very special lessons of their own. Camellia taught us gentleness and persistence. Lauren taught us sweetness and sensitivity. Keyston taught us confidence, never to take anything too serious, and patience. And more patience, and more. Gandalf taught us dignity and heart.

But Tombre, our second dog, taught me the greatest lesson of all. Tombre taught us to look beyond the action to the reason for the behavior — something that can be applied to people, for a greater understanding and acceptance of our fellow humans. (My older brother in particular.)

I knew many graduates and knew all the different physical commands a service dog could perform for their partner. I was fairly familiar with what Hearing Dogs could do to assist their partners. I had an understanding of what Facility Dogs would do in their special settings. But it wasn’t until Tombre graduated that I learned there are no limits to the gifts these special dogs bring into the lives of their recipients. Tombre’s lesson was never close your mind to possibilities.

Tom and Tombre walk in a parade

Tom and Tombre walk in a parade

When I was told that Tombre had been matched with a young man by the name of Tom, I was very pleased that she would graduate. They told me Tom was developmentally delayed and while he had other physical limitations, he was ambulatory. I knew Tombre would be able to help Tom in “some way” but wondered just what WILL she do for Tom?

When we met Tom and his family at that August 1998 graduation, I thought they were very nice people and I knew Tombre would have a great home with them. But again I wondered, “What WILL Tombre do for Tom?”

When Lauren, our third pup, matriculated in February 1999, Tom and his family, and of course Tombre, flew down from Portland to observe graduation “from the other side of the stage” and to give us their support at turn in. Since getting Tombre into his life, Tom had changed in just 6 months from a shy young man who didn’t make eye contact or speak in complete sentences, to a confident young man who sang and danced on stage in the Oregon Pacific Handicapped Actors Musical Entertainers production, State Fair. Tom’s father Dan said “Tombre, as Tom’s speech therapist, has given Tom the confidence that has made all this possible.”

Instead of asking, “What WILL Tombre do for Tom?” — then I wondered, “What CAN’T Tombre and Tom do together!”

Raising potential CCI service dogs, truly gave us MORE back than I ever could have imagined. Our lives were enriched in countless ways. The biggest downside is it’s addicting — you’ll be using dog crates for end tables, you’ll start choosing your vehicles for the comfort of your dog, and your wardrobe will become color coordinated to the color of your dog’s fur.

We were lucky enough to have three of the five dogs we raised graduate, and the changes these dogs made in their partners’ lives were truly “unforgettable”.

A quote I’ve heard many times sums up the puppy-raising experience: “If everyone in the world did one unselfish act for another human being, can you imagine what a glorious world this would be?”


By Guest Contributor November 7, 2016 15:43
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1 Comment

  1. Donna December 26, 04:17

    Pet Tales were priceless. Alone on Christmas Day, I had nothing left to read!!! However, while getting coffee in the tiny motel lobby, I found your newest issue of FAN. Now I knew I could not only survive the day, I would thrive.
    Kim deArrillaga’s story has filled me hope. I am feeling afraid to go outside. Perhaps I could qualify for a CCI dog who could aid me with multiple physical disabilities – MS being the last one diagnosed.
    Hope is indeed a very precious Christmas GIFT!!!! Thank you!

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