Walking through the hallways of CMR, many people gawk at us. Some of them clap animatedly, others squeal noisily and some call out in a baby voice. They are either falling over themselves in excitement or their eyes widen and laughter is muffled beneath their cool mask. It’s hard not to make a scene when you’re holding the leash of a 5 month old golden lab cross puppy.  Still I keep us professional, ignoring the squeals and people’s dramatic displays, edging through the crowd to the next class we attend. Leslie, the puppy, is imperturbable following my lead, with her intense black eyes burning into the hearts of people we pass. She knows she special and pitters along with her small face held aloft.

 Her reason here is socialization and education. It’s not a problem for her, she adapts well to large crowds and silly people. Mostly I have the problem, shooing people away, trying to get people to ask me before they pet her. I feel like a villain withholding a treat from small children, especially when people don’t listen. They look at me scandalized, scorning me with “you should let a puppy be a puppy” or “why does the poor dear need to wear a muzzle?!”  I sigh, trying to explain gentle leaders and her amazing future purpose in life. Some people lighten up and exclaim how wonderful it all is, others have faces that fog up or eyes that slide out of focus. It is hard when that happens, but Leslie doesn’t let it faze her, so neither do I. Someday Leslie will be service dog, giving somebody their life back. At the moment though, she is CCI puppy in training, wearing her little yellow cape that’s almost too small.