image - construction at Folsom Dam

Bring your dog to work day (every day)

Published Jan. 15, 2015
Colby Conrad works at her desk as Destry sits quietly nearby. Having accommodating leadership that allows the service dogs to stay by their trainer’s side is vital to the success of the Canine Companions for Independence according to Conrad. (U.S. Army photo by Luke Burns/Released)

Colby Conrad works at her desk as Destry sits quietly nearby. Having accommodating leadership that allows the service dogs to stay by their trainer’s side is vital to the success of the Canine Companions for Independence according to Conrad. (U.S. Army photo by Luke Burns/Released)

Filly out for a walk on 14 Street in Sacramento. Brian Poole, her trainer, gets many questions about her “muzzle.” It’s actually called a gentle leader and is the preferred way to teach a dog how to walk on a leash. It’s painless for the dog and Brian says she can still eat, bark and lick. (U.S. Army photo by Luke Burns/Released)

Filly out for a walk on 14 Street in Sacramento. Brian Poole, her trainer, gets many questions about her “muzzle.” It’s actually called a gentle leader and is the preferred way to teach a dog how to walk on a leash. It’s painless for the dog and Brian says she can still eat, bark and lick. (U.S. Army photo by Luke Burns/Released)

I love puppies. Doesn’t everyone? Show me someone who doesn’t love puppies and I’ll show you the empty space where their cold black heart once resided. When a puppy enters a room, conversation stops and all anyone wants to do is touch it. Maybe to make sure it’s real and not some childhood dream come to life.

So imagine my surprise when I saw a puppy cruising the halls of the district headquarters building. The first thing I wanted to do was touch it, obviously. But after petting it so vigorously I thought MY back leg was going to get moving, I decided I had to learn how this was possible. How someone was authorized to bring in the only thing more distracting at work than Facebook.

That’s when I set up a meeting with Brian Poole. Brian is the Sacramento District’s architect-engineer administration section chief and he’s also the GREATEST DAD EVER!!!!!!!!! Well, according to his daughter Brianne. You see, Brianne wanted a dog. But not just any dog. A dog that could change someone’s life.

When she asked for a puppy, she got the daddest dad answer any dad ever gave. 

“We already have a dog,” replied Poole.  

That’s when the young Ms. Poole went into her pitch. She wanted to raise a dog for Canine Campaigns for Independence; a non-profit organization started in 1975 whose mission is to enhance the lives of people with disabilities by pairing them with highly trained assistance dogs. 

I guess when your 13-year-old princess researches how to make people’s lives better, fills out the application and does the interview with the program organizers, you pretty much have to say yes. 

“Having a daughter with such a big heart, I can proudly share that with people,” said Poole. 

It’s a rather intense process once you agree to be a “puppy raiser.”

First it’s train the trainer. They have very specific things they need the dogs to learn and detailed instructions on how you go about teaching them. 

Then you receive an 8-week-old Labrador, Golden Retriever or a mix between the two known as a LGX.

Training continues with weekly visits to a professional canine instructor. But the real learning comes from living together on a daily basis. These dogs will go everywhere with their partners once they finish training and the only way to get them that experience is to have them go everywhere with their trainers for the first year and a half of their lives. Pro trainers can’t replicate that at a kennel.

They need exposure to as many people as possible, comfort with loud sounds found on city streets and anything else their trainers can expose them to in order to best prepare them to serve as a 24-hour companion to someone with special needs.

That’s why we see Brian and little Filly here in the building. She’s using US for training. 

Brian has trained several dogs now for Canine Campaigns for Independence, and although he has loved every one of them, he says it’s how people always want to chat he enjoys the most.

“It’s just nice. The human interaction. There is no hesitation for people to come talk to you,” said Poole.

Colby Conrad agrees.

“Most people just look at the numbers in the elevator. No one talks and then it’s like, oh wow your dog is so well behaved,” she said.

You can also see Colby and her pup Destry within the walls of headquarters. She was inspired by Brian’s commitment as a puppy raiser and decided to get involved.

One of the first things she learned was that not every puppy makes it through the program. The standards are exceptionally high to be a canine companion and most dogs don’t make it.

Destry is the third puppy Colby has trained along with her mom, Holly. Their first puppy didn’t pass. The good news is they got to keep him.

“You get a little disappointed, but then you have a really great dog,” admitted Conrad.

And their second dog is still in the running.

“He’s in advance training. I really want him to pass because he’s a really great dog. I mean I miss him. But he can really change someone’s life,” said Conrad. “These dogs have changed my life, and I’m an able-bodied person, so I can just imagine the impact they can have on others.”

Raising puppies has had a profound impact on Colby in another way, too: She has more confidence with a service dog by her side. She attends a bunch of events promoting Canine Companions for Independence and whether it’s a local celebrity or professional athlete, Colby feels WAY more comfortable chatting them up while holding a leash.

“I feel like I’m getting the better end of the deal,” Conrad stated.

So next time you see one of these gorgeous puppies in the lobby or at a work function, feel free to relive your childhood with a good petting session. Because you are only helping them become better prepared for their career as a life-changing service dog.