We hope many of your friends and followers will be able to join us on Tuesday, November 19th for a CCI reception at the Middleburg Community Center to visit with these extraordinary people and dogs and to learn more about this life changing organization. Check out their web site at CCI.org. The invitation to the CCI reception follows Colleen's message to Forrest:
With boundless gratitude to Colleen, CCI, and Toliver,
Forrest & Toliver: A Letter from your Puppy Raiser
What an amazing weekend I have had. I feel on top of the world and my heart is full to the brim. This was definitely one of the best weekends of my lifetime. Throughout the last eight years of raising puppies for CCI, I have often dreamed of standing at that podium and giving the puppy raiser graduation speech and then handing my dog over to a graduate. NEVER could I have imagined that those feelings of pride would be multiplied by one hundred. Handing my dog over to a complete stranger is one thing, but handing him over to someone so special, who I have known and watched grow up for the last sixteen years is a memory that will be with me forever.
As Toliver’s puppy raiser (8 weeks-18 months) it is hard to visualize what the experience will be when you see your dog again after so long; I turned him back in to CCI at eighteen months and he stayed there another six months in Advanced Training. We wonder after only two weeks how well the dogs will have bonded to their graduate? What we observed with sweet Tollie and you made us speechless. Our worries of his happiness, safety, and appropriate placement evaporated after watching the two of you interact.
I thoroughly enjoyed our day with you. Probably my most favorite memory of the graduation day was when I gave you the book I had made of Toliver’s puppyhood and you absorbed yourself in it. You took so much time looking at that book and taking in every single picture…..reading each caption out loud and laughing. You showed the trainers the book and pointed out your favorite photos. The time you took pouring over this book meant the world to me…… there is no question that you would love him as we have.
My other special memory was when you had Toliver bring me the white carnation and place it in my lap. As mum said and I have always believed “life comes full circle”. When Richard and I had CCI pup in training, Halle, bring your mum flowers when you were in the GA rehab hospital in those first months, it was in our deepest prayers that we hoped we would see you as vibrant and full of health as we witnessed this weekend. You and Toliver returned that same small act of kindness to us and I reveled at how far you have come!
I also spoke with the trainers throughout the matching process and was continually amazed at their assessment of you and your needs. They could not have been more accurate in their match for you and what Toliver could offer you. I have always had the deepest respect for the CCI trainers and watching you and Tollie together only anchored my faith in this wonderful organization that I love so much.
Before graduation, you expressed to me that you were worried that you were “taking my dog away from me”. You are such a sweet and sensitive man; just like the dog you were matched with! Forrest, I want you to know that Richard and I watched the two of you walk out the hotel lobby…. you had a smile on your face and Toliver walked briskly by your side with his tail happily wagging from side to side as he looked up at you. I had an incredible peace wash over me. I felt like a proud parent and knew my little furry man was happy. No one deserves a special friend more than you do. I turned to Richard and we both had huge smiles and tears of joy in our eyes. You two were meant to be together and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Having the opportunity to be a part of your journey as a team, will fill our hearts each and every day.
All Our Love,
Colleen and Richard
|CCI Graduation - after Colleen, Richard and |
Co- Puppy Raiser Karen officially handed Forrest Toliver's leash