‘I’m Just Having a Lot of Fun’

The loss of her Chesapeake Bay retriever a few years ago left a huge hole in Cynthia’s life. But as a retired math teacher and mom of grown children she loves to visit—including a daughter who lives overseas—Cynthia decided it was best not to get another animal.

“It was hard. I love dogs,” she says.

Then Cynthia learned about fostering future service dogs with us. After going through the application process, she came to Axel’s Place one Saturday morning for a training event—and went home with Phoenix that very same day.

Now, Cynthia is rarely without a service dog in training, taking Phoenix and now Ruby with her wherever she goes—to church, the gym, outdoor concerts, substitute teaching gigs, and even to Washington, D.C., where they practiced riding the Amtrak and the Metro. All these experiences provide invaluable training for the dogs, who will be paired with a wounded or disabled veteran.

As Cynthia’s youngest daughter, who works at a veterinary hospital, puts it: “It’s so great that you have a dog, but you don’t have a dog.”

“I just jumped in and did it. It was sink or swim. I’m just having a lot of fun, and I’m really glad I’m doing it,” Cynthia says. “Of course I’m going to miss Ruby. She’s so much fun. I just tell myself each day, ‘She is going to be so good with a veteran.’”