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A Very Special Gift - A Brigadoon Service Dogs Testimonial by Ginger Corley (2018)

I think all of us want to be remembered when we leave this earth for what we’ve given back. I’ve had a lot of opportunities given to me in my life: good parents, a great education (I sucked up nine years of college thanks to scholarships, government grants, and later, my employers subsidizing my graduate degree and certificate programs), and more medical resources than any person should ever have to need.

I was able to give back a bit this week when I donated one of the pups I raised to a wonderful organization. Brigadoon Service dogs ( of Bellingham, Washington trains Service Dogs for veterans, children, and adults with physical, developmental, and behavioral disabilities. It was a bit sad for me and my other dogs when eight-month-old Cree left on Thursday, and the house is oh so quiet now that I only have five- to ten-year-old dogs in residence. But I know that he’s going to have a great life and do wonderful things, presuming that he passes their rigorous training requirements. I got to know the Founder and Director, Denise Costanten a few years ago and she has been wanting to get one of my Chinooks into her program for a long time.

I have donated dogs to other groups in the past. In 1997 I donated a pup to Fidos for Freedom of Maryland (, a group that a friend was involved with. Just twelve weeks old at the time, he went into the home of a puppy raiser and ended up spending his whole life there when his hip x-rays turned out to not be of high enough caliber for the program. Later I donated a two-year-old champion show dog to Summit Assistance Dogs ( of Anacortes, Washington. Klickitat went on to be the Service Dog for a woman in Maryland with MS named Florence. For nearly ten years, Tat Tat was at Florence’s side every minute of every day until Florence passed away. After that Tat stayed with Florence’s family until her own death. Because of her, Florence had the opportunity to get out and travel, both with and without her husband, and to enjoy a life far more enriched than she had before. It made me feel good to know that the puppy I raised from nine weeks old to two years, that I trained in basic obedience, had gone on to do something wonderful.

It was that memory that led me to think of Brigadoon Service Dogs when I was thinking of what job Cree could take on in his life for he certainly needed a job beyond raiding my lunch bag, eating all the Tupperware he can steal out of the kitchen sink, rearranging the dog beds in the house, and stealing my bathrobe to drag it into his crate and sleep on it when I’m not looking. (The dogs often take advantage of my hearing loss when I’m working in my office and use that time to get away with murder.) Cree is as loving as his mom, my Elizabeth, and as smart and easily trained as his dad, my friend Susan’s dog Dylan, so I knew he was capable of great things. I stopped by to visit Brigadoon one day when I had him along and they were impressed with him. We arranged that he would come to them when they had graduated some of the dogs they had in residence, so I took him back home for another month. The night before he left, I bought a load of soup bones at Safeway, a dog’s version of a wild party.

Cree will now be in training with Brigadoon service Dogs for 12 to 16 months. The first part of the training will be there with them at their facility east of Bellingham. Then, if he is judged good enough to continue, he’ll move into one of the prison programs they support, where he’ll live with a prisoner 24 hours a day. He’ll then come back to Brigadoon for his final phase of training so he can get more exposure to the real world.

Cree is going to be a big dog, easily 80 pounds at maturity, and with his sled dog heritage I can see him as a mobility assistance dog for a young, on-the-go person. He’s very lovable, wanting to climb up into my lap (granted, only his front half fit) every evening for some cuddling and affection.

I’ll be following his training via updates and should anything happen that he doesn’t make it, he’ll come back to me. But I think he has the makings of a great Service Dog in him and that he’ll be able to help someone someday. And in my own small way, I’m helping someone too.

Who knows? Later this winter there may be more pups here and perhaps there will be another future Service Dog in the bunch. You just never know.

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