Caps & Capes: Message from CEO, Vanessa Barker
" A huge congrats to all the 2020 graduates! And a very special shout out to every student puppy raiser, sitter, and co-raiser that has made it to this point - it’s a huge achievement to graduate and also have contributed to improving the lives of others through raising these puppies. You’ve made it!
Raising as a student is not easy, for me, raising in college was sometimes even more difficult than classes, but it has always been infinitely rewarding. Somedays, me and the pup would struggle to get to class on time or we’d be having just one of those days that was a mess with every turn. There are always ups and downs as a puppy raiser - you’re literally raising a furry child - but at the end of the day, seeing your boy or girl achieve so much makes every second worth it.
I graduated from undergrad this month and during quarantine, I’ve reflected a lot on my time as a puppy raiser. Sadly, my time as a raiser has come to a close (hopefully just for now) as I start a new chapter and enter the workforce. Many graduating raisers are moving on to new chapters in their lives, going to college, grad school, new jobs, or even still figuring things out. Pawsible is here to celebrate you and all your achievements now and going forwards!
I’ve been involved in the raising of three future guide dogs, each of which I’ve had a deep and unique bond with. I got into puppy raising by happen-chance, as many of us do - my best friend was one of the first raisers at my university and through a series of events, she ended up reaching out to me to help with her pup in training, Chuck. From there, I was hooked on the puppy love and every moment of a pup’s training growth - within a few months I ended up joining as a proper raiser, joined the organization’s volunteer leadership, and raised two more dogs. I fast-tracked myself into the life of puppy raising and have been enamored since.
Yet raising isn’t always so smooth. Through no fault of his own, Chuck ended up as a bomb-sniffing dog instead of a guide dog - he’s now living the life down in Hollywood and still helping others! My second dog, Spike, switched last second into service dog training and is now the cuddliest, smartest service dog ever, helping a veteran in need. My third and what for now will be my last, Carlo, was medically released from our program halfway through our time together. Heartbreak is inevitable with these puppies yet my heart still bursts with pride for each and every one of them. As raisers we pour out our hearts and souls into these puppies, believing in them as much as they believe in us.
Graduation is supposed to be that exhilarating moment where everything comes to fruition - you’ve worked so hard to get to the top of the hill and toss your cap into the real world. As puppy raisers, sharing that moment with someone who has helped us get there is another special part of it. We dream of walking across the stage, leash in hand, and your good boy or girl beaming up at you. In past years I’ve watched my friends and fellow puppy raisers graduate, excited for when it would finally be my chance to share that special day with my pup. I’ve looked forward to the cute group pictures, the excitement of the day, and feeling such a sense of accomplishment with my furry best friend at my side to share it with me. Sadly, for many of us that day won’t come in the way we’ve imagined.
The reality of what graduation looks like this year is anticlimactic but this virtual celebration is just one of many efforts taken by schools, universities, and organizations across the country to honor the Class of 2020. Our class has endured something unique that will stand out in our resumes and memories and I hope we are able to help make this a special time for every graduating puppy raiser.
I hope that if you’re a 2020 graduate, a puppy raiser post-grad, or still in school, you know how valued you are in the lives of these puppies and their future companions. We are each a huge piece in the path of helping those with disabilities, ailments, and other struggles live fulfilled lives. We each have our ‘why’s for puppy raising, but they all convene on the big picture of what we do - we help others through our commitments of time, donations, and love. I hope you’re showered with puppy kisses in your celebration of your and your pup’s achievements!
Congratulations to everyone and I’m so glad you’ve joined us for this paw-some ceremony! "
May 31st Caps & Capes speech from Vanessa Barker, CEO & Co-Founder of Pawsible Inc.