Saint Francis Service Dogs 2022 Annual Report

A message from Cabell “Our base is now and always has been our stalwart volunteers, our steadfast donors, our talented staff, and our extraordinary dogs.”

This has been a year for nurturing programs, initiatives, and ideas. We are growing. My job is to define a clear vision for our future and then chart our path towards that goal, holding the line between those who want to dash ahead and those that hesitate. It’s not easy. When you add to that, the fact that growth always involves setbacks, it can feel overwhelming. An eight-week-old puppy reminded me of the solution. Born last fall in the house of one of our incredible whelping volunteers, she was raised in the heart of their home, experiencing the love and support of a nurturing family from literally the moment she entered the world. In December, it was time for the next phase of her life. She left home for the first time and it didn’t go as planned. She sustained a mild injury. Our veterinarian treated her and said she would be fine. But she wasn’t. She refused food. Usually lab puppies attack their food with such vigor that their sides suck in like they have become little vacuum cleaners, so this was a big red flag. We decided she should go to the emergency clinic overnight for monitoring. I drove her and my heart hurt. I whispered in her ear that she was brave, but in truth she was so small and seemed so sad. The veterinarian at the clinic examined her and was mystified. She ran tests, looking for a cause. Nothing. The Saint Francis team was busy talking well into the evening. We were baffled and worried about this little puppy that seemed so sick.

Our volunteer that whelped the litter – the one human this puppy knew better than any on earth – offered to drive over to visit the puppy at the emergency clinic that night. The veterinarian readily agreed. Only then were we able to see what the problem was: it turns out our little puppy was desperately homesick. When the puppy saw our volunteer’s familiar face, she recovered immediately and joyfully, leaping up and climbing into her lap to lick her face thoroughly. Once satisfied, she pounced on her food bowl and devoured her dinner like a good puppy. All was right with the world. She left the emergency clinic with her whelping mother and went back home to her familiar family for a bit longer. She has started her journey and is now happy and thriving with her puppy raiser. It’s an important lesson. Sometimes, when you have a setback, you need to go back to your roots for some sustenance to bolster you to move forward again. I hope Saint Francis will grow the same way we nurture our puppies – providing watchful encouragement, individual attention, and buckets of love. Our base is now and always has been our stalwart volunteers, our steadfast donors, our talented staff, and our extraordinary dogs. Thank you. We are so grateful. With roots like ours, I feel great about the future.


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