Fear and Pain With a Purpose

Leila1

It’s funny that the thing people say to me about homeschooling my kids is the same as what they say about raising a guide dog:

“Oh I could never do that!”

Which I’m not entirely sure what to make of.

“Why couldn’t you do that?” I wonder to myself. Sometimes I ask.

“I’d have no idea what to teach” or “We’d drive each other nuts” or “They’d never learn everything they need to” people say.

In other words, they’re afraid.

And when they find out our family raises guide dogs and they say they could never do that, they usually say “I could never give the dog up.”

Because they’re afraid. That I get, they’re afraid of the pain.

But avoiding pain is a pretty unrewarding way to live, I think.

One of the reasons I never wanted pets was knowing they would die someday. Who wants that? I’d ask myself, why would I put myself through that? I wondered.

One animal-loving husband and three animal-loving kids later and five pets plus five guide dog puppies down the road, I get it now (as I write this with my own pet dog snuggled in my lap).

I’ve eaten crow.

People ask about the guide dog puppies “Is it hard when they leave?” and honestly, how could it not be?  Yes of course it’s hard. It’s very very hard. As in choke back the tears for days hard.

But like finishing homeschooling your kids and sending them out in the world on their own for college or a job or travel or volunteering or whatever new adventures they choose, it’s exciting and rewarding to watch what unfolds after all the hard work you did together.

After all the hard work you did together.

That feels really good.

This week Winnie’s second dog, Leila, will graduate from the Heeling Autism program at Guiding Eyes for the Blind. We said goodbye to her 18 months ago with tears in our eyes.

Leila

And later this week we’ll have tears in our eyes again, but happy tears this time as she joins her forever family. Her job is to be a physical and emotional companion to a young girl who is autistic. We know Leila is going to change that family’s life and that feels pretty incredible.

Homeschooling has allowed this to happen; a willingness to take on fear and pain has allowed us to grow. It’s pain with a purpose, whether it’s the fear of not doing right by your kids or the pain of saying a final goodbye to a puppy.

Sometimes beyond the fear of the unknown lies the best rewards. Leila will show us that this week, I’m sure.

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