Assistance Dog Puppy Raiser
I would like to dedicate these pages on our assistance dogs and the rest of our pack to our vet, Dr. Brenda Culver.
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I have always loved working with puppies and have trained all of our hunting dogs. However, it always seemed like a long time between puppies, but that was remedied when in spring of 1998 I saw a news program on service dogs in the Paws for A Cause organization. They focused on the puppy raisers and their importance and that was enough for me. I contacted Paws but they primarily service the eastern half of the United States and had no puppy raiser programs for the Montana area. They suggested I contact Canine Companions for Independence in Santa Rosa CA which I did immediately. I told them I wanted to be a puppy raiser and they sent me a long application to fill out. Then they did a phone interview with me and finally did a home visit with the help of another local puppy raiser, Betty Beverly, who had already raised many puppies for them. She reported back to CCI the next day with positive comments and I was called that day and told me they had a puppy waiting to be fostered. His name was Gareth and he was already 12 weeks old and needed a puppy raiser home soon. I said “Yes!”. CCI flew him to Helena in August of 1998 and thus began my career as a volunteer assistance dog puppy raiser.
I raised three puppies for CCI and then switched to a smaller organization, Loving Paws Assistance Dogs, also based in Santa Rosa, CA. My third CCI puppy, Kim II, was released from their program and picked up by LPAD where she was in advanced training before being released as a companion dog.
I then raised a gorgeous golden retriever, Joy, who returned to advanced training on 1 November 2001. However, Joy became depressed without me and would not eat, work, or play. LPAD released her back to me in December 2001. After a period of readjustment, Joy began her career as a registered therapy dog.
In the summer of 2002, I raised the golden retriever litter mates, Tarka and Tring. We returned them to LPAD in September 2002 for advanced training. While there, we picked up Freedom, a 10 week old yellow lab, to become my seventh Puppy In Training. I always try to overlap the pups I am raising as it helps me emotionally to let go of the pup that has been with me for about a year and focus on the new pup.
Despite the heartache associated with turning the dogs back in after having their constant companionship for a year, I have found the work to be extremely rewarding. To see a child in a wheelchair receive a dog is a heart bursting moment and I have attended three CCI graduations and watched that process. In addition to the satisfaction that comes from helping someone else, I have found much spiritual reward in the association with these dogs who are bred to be constant companions. I have also learned much about what it means to be confined to a wheelchair and how valuable these dogs are to the people who receive them.
Although I shed many tears before, during and for some time after the turn-in of a dog, the experience has been nothing but positive for me. Because the puppies and their first year raisers are the foundation of these programs, the number of dogs made available to handicapped people is dependent on the number of puppies raised. There is always a need for new puppy raisers and I would encourage anyone who loves working with puppies and wants to give back to someone in need to become a puppy raiser.
It is very sad to turn a dog in after having it with me 24-7 for a year but then seeing someone like this little girl get her dog makes it worth it.