Denver - January 31, 2013
Dear Readers, I bet you're dying to know the behind-the-scenes story of Canine Companions marching in the Inaugural Parade, aren't you? I know I was! Luckily, I just happen to be friends with Jake, a puppy in training (going to professional training next month) who attended the event. Here's our conversation:
JEB: How did you get selected to go? Did you have to apply of be approved or be proficient in your sit-stay?
JAKE: My puppy raiser, Jeni, volunteered to go after Canine Companions sent out a message that there was availability to march in the parade. To formally request to be in the inaugural parade, Jeni had to complete some questions for the secret service about herself and she also had to let them know my name. All parade marchers were screened and then given approval to march about a week before the parade.
JEB: What preparations did you have to make ahead of time?
JAKE: The only preparations I had to make was to be sure my CCI vest was clean and that I was clean. My sister’s puppy raiser is a groomer and she made me look very handsome. All of the humans in the parade were in the same outfit. Jeni had to send in her coat size to get a yellow parka that Canine Companions supplied, which was made by a Santa Rosa, Calif. company. The humans also had to wear black pants and black shoes, which showed off yellow dog hair very nicely.
JEB: Were there as many people and dogs there as predicted?
JAKE: Yup, there were about 137 people and 57 puppies and graduate dogs who marched in the parade. It was amazing to see the group together!
JEB: Did you have to get up really early the day of the parade?
JAKE: Yup. Jeni and I stayed at a home that was about a 45-minute drive to Washington D.C. We left the house at 6:45 a.m. and did not return home until 9:00 p.m. It was a very long day and I went right to sleep that night.
JEB: I bet you were "dog tired." HA!
JAKE: Oh, you're hilarious. *eye roll*
JEB: What steps did you have to go through once you got to Washington, D.C.?
JAKE: The Canine Companions participants gathered at a park (interestingly, it was a park designed for children with disabilities) so that the humans could get their yellow parkas and directions. There was also a brief puppy play time, but I did not attend that….something about me being an intact male....
JEB: Gee, that seems unfair.
JAKE: (Shrug) Yeah. Anyhow. then we boarded one of five buses that took us to the parking lot of the Pentagon. We were allowed to go outside and “hurry” and then we waited until it was our turn for the buses to move again to the security screening area. When we pulled up to this area, we saw other dogs outside. They were with police officers and they were doing their important job of sniffing for bombs in band instrument cases and other equipment that would be used in the parade.
JEB: Sniffer dogs. Seems like a cushy job to me. I mean, what dog doesn't use his nose? Anyhow, what happened next?
JAKE: We got off the buses and entered a big white tent where there were more security people and metal detector screeners, just like the airport. The humans were given photo ID badges. Then we waited AGAIN before getting on the buses to get to the parade staging area. I was getting hot because of all my fur, so some of this time I spent putting my paws up on the seat in front of me and sticking my head out the window as far as Jeni would let me. Tons of people smiled and waved at me and everyone on the bus knew my name after that!
JEB: I can just see you doing that - I bet you had quite a fan club!.
JAKE: (modestly) Well, sure. When we finally arrived at the staging area the humans were given box lunches. Jeni packed my dinner for a bit later.
JEB: Was all that waiting really boring?
JAKE: No, because we waited at a lot of different interesting locations like the Pentagon and the Washington Monument. The parade started ninety minutes later than it was supposed to, but we had fun walking around and listening to the Grambling State Marching band who were a few entries ahead of CCI. There was a lot of activity and Jeni visited with several other puppy raisers and graduate teams. I was able to meet many other puppies in training as well as graduate dogs.
JEB: I know the answer to this because I know my Canine Companions brethren, but I'll ask it anyhow: Did all the dogs behave and get along?
JAKE: Of course! Jeni told me she was proud that I minded my manners and was a Very Good Boy. All of the dogs were very well behaved and even our bus driver commented at the end of the day’s events how well all of us minded.
JEB: Did you get petted a lot?
JAKE: Besides the CCI people, some of the military personnel that were there for security reasons petted many of the dogs. I think we were stress relievers for them.
JEB: What was it like to actually be in the parade? Did people clap for you?
JAKE: It was very exciting to be in the parade! There were announcers along the parade route and they would say as we were approaching, “For over 35 years, Canine Companions for Independence has provided service dogs to people with disabilities…..” People cheered loudly for us and shouted, “Beautiful dogs!” and “Thanks for what you do!” all along the parade route.
JEB: Aww, that's wonderful! What was it like to actually walk past the President? Was Bo there?
JAKE: The Presidential viewing stand was almost at the end of the parade route and as we approached, we could see President Obama and Vice President Biden. Both men smiled and waved and Mr. Biden even pumped his fist a few times. I don't think Bo was there. I think he was probably getting ready for the Inaugural Ball.
JEB: Ball? Ball? Ball?
JAKE: Different kind of ball, Jeb. Anyhow, I'm glad I got to go. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
JEB: Maybe I can go to the next one.
Chow for now!