From the second I met Cessna, I was head over heels in love. Being my first 4 Paws for Ability foster, I had no idea how quickly he would become my best friend and how deeply I would bond with him. Throughout the 8 ½ half months that he lived with me, we only grew closer, which made his give back day all the more difficult.
My roommate and I picked Cessna up when he was 4 months old. We were shocked at how intelligent he was at this age, already knowing sit, down, and shake like he had been doing them for years. When we introduced him to new commands, he was such a quick learner, easily mastering things like ‘place’, ‘under’, and ‘hit it’. He wasn’t frightened by any loud noises or strange sights that he encountered, making it easy to take him practically anywhere with us. He thrived during trips to the grocery store, sporting events, and malls, and we were amazed by his unwavering confidence at all times.
Fostering was not without its challenges, but as Cessna grew up before our eyes we realized that it was his destiny to become a service dog. Cessna never met a person he didn’t like – he especially loved children of all sizes! He behaved impeccably in public and listened very well when given commands. There was nothing that he couldn’t handle. Perhaps his best quality however, was his ability to love unconditionally. The moment that best describes this was a night in which I had a mental breakdown, something that had greatly decreased in frequency since getting Cessna. That night, I had already put Cessna in his kennel for bedtime. Approximately 15 minutes later, the breakdown began and I knew immediately what I needed to stop it. I opened the kennel door, and without saying anything walked back into my room, where I curled up on my bed. Cessna jumped right up after me and began to nuzzle my arms before laying down with his body right up against mine. I’m not entirely sure how he knew what to do in the absence of commands, but it worked. He performed his first behavior disruption that night and I saw what an amazing service dog he was going to become.
Cessna and I were practically attached at the hip, so his sense of intuition was strong, but my love for him was even stronger. When I received the message that he was matched with a family after advanced training, I was ecstatic. I was overwhelmed with pride and joy at the fact that I had helped socialize a service dog and that I had thereby helped a family in need. Hearing that he was going to be an autism assistance dog made so much sense to me because he was always so loyal and perceptive. Cessna knew what I needed even if I didn’t know, and he stuck with me through good times and bad. His incredible sense of smell makes him perfect for tracking, and his ability to adapt to new situations assists him in helping his kiddo deal with change. On the day I watched him graduate as an official autism assistance service dog, it was a dream come true. I beamed from ear to ear at having the chance to meet his new family and see him one last time for a final goodbye. That day was bittersweet, but still today I feel extremely blessed to have been Cessna’s foster mom. Cessna will always have part of my heart wherever he goes, and he will forever be in mine.