As with every cycle in nature, human affairs, and life itself, the last Caring Connections training session of the June through October series with Monroe Harding’s Cooperatively Living Program youth recently reached its successful conclusion.
I have no doubt that a profound sentiment of gratitude and satisfaction permeated the hearts of all the Caring Connections volunteers and staff who—along with Monroe Harding’s staff—were present that cool, gray-sky morning. As for the pups, it was clear they were determined to bring their enthusiasm and willingness to participate in the session one last October morning. Time to put their game faces on!
The morning’s dog training session was circumscribed by the challenges of the agility course, the part of the humane education and dog training series that separates the pups from the not so pups. It was thrilling to see how the dogs managed to successfully negotiate each one of the agility course components set up first outside on the campus’ expansive green lawns, and then efficiently and cooperatively moved inside the gym—since nature had other plans.
In spite of the restrictions imposed by the enclosed space and significant human presence, the collective spirit kept a positive vibe that filled up the echoing room. Our canine trainees Magic, Pip and Bear (with the assistance of the youth from MH who singlehandedly maneuvered the dogs through the course), stepped up to the plate as fresh young privates barely introduced to the rigors of the most unforgiving of agility courses at the best U.S. Army Physical Readiness Training installations in America. They showed everyone just what a determined, courageous and trainable team they had been throughout the cycle. Their commitment would certainly make the meanest of drill sergeants nod with two quarters of a smile as sign of approval, but for now a proud Crossroads Campus-Cooperative Living cheerleading squad would suffice.
As the challenging and rewarding session began to wind down, it was time to pack the gear and reconvene in the Dining Hall inside the main building. There a graduation ceremony was held for both the rescued dogs and the young men to the imaginary tune of “Pomp and Circumstance.” The beloved dogs were awarded Certificates of Participation while the Monroe Harding youth’s dog training efforts were recognized as they accepted Certificates of Achievement. Pizza was eagerly scarfed down by all present, except for the worn out pups whose laid back poses belied the focus and energy demonstrated back on the agility courses.
There were many memorable moments throughout the entire cycle, including getting to know Magic, Pip, Vandy, Meeko, and Bailey (with the last 3 enjoying the love and care of their adoptive guardians) among other pups. There was the arrival of Bear also, a most interesting young yellow lab whose singular and nothing short of miraculous story deserves to be told in its own blog. One such moment was the interest, as seemingly “small” as the very puppy-like inspiration for it on the last day of series (which I’ll explain in subsequent paragraphs), demonstrated by one of the young men whom our Caring Connections teams’ participants had observed had no interest in summoning insomuch as an iota of remote desire to take part in any of the dog training sessions. The situation—I’m convinced—had become a collective quest for us all: to engage this young man by whatever means necessary (namely the irresistible charm of the canine cherubs) in the WONDERFUL, FANTASTIC, and MAGNIFICENT world of doggie training, yeah!!! However, every attempt seemed to fail utterly in reaching and becoming intimate with the unyielding heart of the lad, or so we thought…
David “Tito” LaRosa, Caring Connections Volunteer