Linda McMahan is an eighth grade science teacher here in Shawnee, Oklahoma, To see her on the street you might wonder about her because she has a dog with her 99% of the time. Linda is paying it forward by raising pups for Canine Companions for Independence, a 501c3 non profit organization that breeds raises and trains dog for the disabled. Linda became interested in CCI while attending one of the CCI fundraisers. She inquired about the Puupy Raising Program and applied after talking with a couple of other puppy raisers in the Oklahoma City area. Linda’s first puppy was flown into the Dallas Ft.Worth airport where this yellow fur ball bounded out of the shipping kennel and into Linda’s heart. Her name was Delores, she is a lab golden retriever cross and all she had to do was look at you with those big brown eyes to melt your heart. Raising a puppy is a daunting task, after all they are the only pups you will ever receive that come with not one but two training manuals. A Puppy Raiser for CCI is responsible for laying the foundation on which all the commands this pup will use to become a working service will need. This includes all the basic obedience commands like sit, stay, down, off and several others required by CCI. Linda will keep the pup for 14 to 18 months and not only teach the basics but she will housebreak, and train the pup to relieve itself on command. She’s teach all the skills needed for the pup to be accepted out in public, that means no eating off the floor, sniffing or licking inappropriately. She will take the pup everywhere she goes to expose them to and teach them how to act in public. Raising a puppy for CCI is a full time job with no guarantee that the puppy they are raising will graduate as working dog. Linda as with all puppy raisers are responsible for all fees incurred while the pup is in her care. Food, shots, veterinary check ups, training classes, toys, and getting the pup back to the regional training center when they have reached that 14 to 18 month age. The pups are returned to the training center and presented in a graduating ceremony which is the culmination of a two week training period where the adult fully trained dog is partnered with his life time human. This two week period is known as Team Training. Once that little ball of fur the puppy raiser started out with reaches this stage the person or graduate that is receiving the dog meets the puppy raiser and is given the opportunity to communicate with the Puupy raiser for the life of dog, Linda did not get that opportunity with Delores, Delo as she is fondly called experienced kennel stress and was released from the program. Linda was given the first choice, she could keep Delo as a pet, take her and give her to a family member, or release her back to CCI where there is a waiting list of people wanting to get a released dog. Dogs are released for a variety of reasons, health, tempermentl, stress, and even stuborness. Linda chose to take Delo back into her home, but having raised her from an 8 week old pup knew that Delo needed a job. All the time Linda was raising Delores she had been taking Delo to school with her. Delo had calmed many a student in her class, and had taught all of Linda’s classes the importance of patience. What better way than to help the kids by coming back into the school and working with the kids again. Linda received permission to start a program call Dog Gone Reading, Delo was the dog. Well shall we say one of the dogs because Linda was already raising her second CCI puppy Benisa. Once Linda was given the word she gave up her planning period, found a quiet corner in the library and picked the kids who were having a problem reading and ask them to join her, Delo and Benisa, in the library where they could chill out in bean bag chairs and read to the dogs. The program was so well recieved by the kids that occssionaly a guest dog has been invited in to listen to the kids read. Benisa will be leaving soon to go on and see what she is made of and what kind of working dog she will become, although we hate to see her go we all wish her success most of all Linda. Linda’s goal is to have Benisa give some lucky person out there the gift of independence, freedom to do things they have not been able to do in their own. Linda is paying it forward everyday and she is my hometown hero. When Benisa leaves us in August, a new puppy will start it’s life under the supervison of Linda, tears will be shed but life will move along and Linda will start the process all over again in hopes that one day the current bundle of fur will give that most precious gift to someone who has no idea what the love of a dog can do for them.