Lisa Hamilton decided to make a life choice decision that has brought something special to her life — Australia.
Not the country, but the name of the golden Labrador Retriever Hamilton is helping train to become an assistance dog in her Cimarron home.
Hamilton's journey with the assistance dog organization KSDS Inc. — a group out of Washington, Kan., that places canines throughout the states — started when she "puppy sat" for a friend who was working with another dog from the association. She talked with her husband, Clint, about the opportunity and he was on board.
"It's something I've always wanted to do," Hamilton said. "I grew up in Wisconsin and I thought about raising a puppy, but it never happened. When I moved here and heard about KSDS, we thought it was a good organization and decided to go out and make this work."
The future trainer also got letters of recommendation from the veterinarian that would take care of the puppy and from someone who knew Hamilton could train him. The Hamiltons picked up Australia from the organization offices when he was 8 weeks old.
The next eight months were a handful according to Hamilton.
"Puppies have a lot of energy and you have them the first two years when they're pretty wild," Hamilton said. "You have to housebreak them and 'go potty' on command. There's a lot of attention the dog needs and it's very time consuming."
Australia's first time in public took place last month at the Steve King Memorial Races at Dodge City Raceway Park: a place that had both a plethora of people and a number of unusual and very loud noises. Hamilton said the Labrador passed with flying colors.
"He did really well in socializing with people and handled the noise well, especially since there was a lot of noise out there," Hamilton said. "He has his moments and he likes to show off his skills quite a bit."
Hamilton will continue to work with Australia until he is about 3 years old, when she must give the canine back to the organization for further training. She hopes to be able to train more puppies, but admits that the decision will partially from how she feels when she gives up the Labrador.
"It will be hard but I think it will be OK because he is going for a good cause," Hamilton said. "It's hard watching a dog get old as well, so I think if I give him back when he's young, he will have a long, full life with someone who needs him."