That was in 1995. I was that many years younger and that many years more naïve about dog training. I had no idea what I was doing or where this journey was about to take me. The arrival of that big crazy chocolate lab was the beginning of something that has made me the person I am today.
Today it's not so unusual to see puppies in training around town. The area has, over the years, become a tiny mecca for service dog training. People don't recognize me anymore without a dog at my side. There are other raisers in the Valley now and people are mostly very respectful of what we are doing. I have loved raising service dogs and I am thankful daily for the dogs that I have gotten to work with and for the people that I have met.
As for Luke.... Well he graduated as a service dog and I, of course, travelled to his graduation with a friend. When we parked a convertible pulled up next to our van. In the back seat was a big chocolate lab soaking in the sunshine. When I opened the car door, my friend spoke Luke's name in that way that everyone in town always did, and Luke jumped right out of the back seat of the convertible. I guess that wasn't such good service dog behavior, but I was so happy to see him that I didn't care.
In the end, Luke was an amazing service dog for his partner Andy. The worked together for many years and he started me on my amazing dog training journey.