Volunteer puppy raisers wanted for BC & Alberta Guide Dogs

WatchBC & Alberta Guide Dogs is looking for volunteer puppy raisers to help train the next generation of service dogs. Tess van Straaten reports.

Four-month-old puppy Blossom is full of energy and loves to play and she gets a lot of attention wherever she goes.

“She’s rather a hit everywhere she goes so sometimes it’s not so much she can’t handle the trip as other people can’t handle how cute she is and she gets too much attention,” laughs Cheryl Tradewell, Blossom’s volunteer puppy raiser.

Blossom is training to be a service dog with BC and Alberta Guide Dogs.

The non-profit recently expanded to provide PTSD service dogs for veterans in addition to guide dogs and autism support dogs and they’re desperately in need of puppy raisers.

“It is a pretty big time commitment,” says Samantha Jagt of BC & Alberta Guide Dogs. “You do have a puppy in the house and there’s a lot of training that goes along with that so a lot of our puppy raisers are retired or semi-retired or work from home or have very flexible schedules.”

For Tradewell, it’s already been an incredibly rewarding experience.

“You really don’t notice service dogs until you actually start raising one and you start seeing these different people that have them and you know they wouldn’t be able to do what they’re doing if they hadn’t had a dog raised for them so that’s pretty special,” she says.

The waiting list for people needing a guide dog or autism support dogs is so long — almost three years — they’ve had to close it.

It’s about two years for PTSD dogs, which is why they’re hoping to get a lot more puppy raisers.

“We’re increasing our breeding program, increasing the amount of puppy raisers we have in order to shorten those waitlists and help people,” Jagt says.

Right now, there are 26 puppies that will need homes in the next two months on Vancouver Island from Victoria to Nanaimo, on the Lower Mainland and in the Calgary area.

Volunteers will get support from puppy training supervisors and Jagt says it’s about a one year to 18-month commitment.

“We think of her as our homestay,” Tradewell says. “You have a student with you for a while and you help them learn and move on.”

It’s a mindset that will make giving Blossom back a little easier, especially knowing the huge difference she’ll make.

Tess van StraatenTess van Straaten

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