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11 Days of Christmas: Puppy Love

Photo Credit: Sanjana Ramesh

From left, Barbie, Gabbi Markle, Elsa and Sanjana Ramesh.

As the Flagpole staff takes a much-needed break over the holidays, we’re reposting 11 of our most popular, most important, funniest and/or otherwise noteworthy stories of this most dismal of years. Look for a new post each day through Jan. 2.

Surely you’ve noticed them in a restaurant, at the grocery store, all over town: University of Georgia students with yellow-vest-clad puppies.

UGA students care for and train about 100 service dogs each year, and sometimes the trainers don’t just find new four-legged friends, but two-legged ones as well: 

Gabbi Markle and Sanjana Ramesh were strangers when they drove to Deana Izzo’s kennel, Happy Tails Playhouse, on Nov. 3, 2014 to pick up their long-awaited puppies, which had just arrived after a 19-hour drive from New York. After being handed their 8-week-old pups and given the puppy-raising essentials—food bowl, leash, collar and some food—they realized they were parked next to each other, then Sanjana was in front of Gabbi all the way home to their apartment complex off College Station Road. From that night on, the two were inseparable—the sister puppies, Barbie and Elsa, demanded it. “They were obsessed with each other,” Markle says.

The Guide Dog Foundation offers several ways a volunteer can be involved. Buddies can watch a dog for a few hours a day, essentially babysitting. Campers can house dogs for multiple days in a row, helping out puppy-raisers when they need to go out of town. Co-raisers share the load of raising a puppy between two people. The most involved is being a full-time raiser. Raisers like Markle and Ramesh typically raise dogs from the time they are 8 weeks old until they are ready to head back to New York for formal training 14–18 months later.

“When you get into it, you really don’t know what you’re getting into,” Markle says. She and Ramesh reminisced about their first years with their pups, saying it was like having a baby to take care of. “We all talk like we’re moms.”

“They’re human. Are you kidding? Please,” Ramesh insists.

It may not be a Christmas story, but it’s hearwarming enough. Read the rest here.