"Good boy! What a good boy! You want a treat? Look at that snoot! Ugh, you're so cute we could puke and die oh my god, we love you so much!"
Sorry, we were just practicing our puppy talk, because the Rochester Hills-based organization, Leader Dogs for the Blind, has a really unique problem: too many Labradors and not enough human volunteers to raise them to become potential future service dogs, Fox 2 reports.
"Puppy raisers are the backbone of our guide dog program," the group's website reads. "They give 12 to 15 months of their time, energy and love to raise a puppy for Leader Dog. Through daily care and training, puppy raisers build the foundation our puppies need to become a trusted guide dog for someone who is blind."
So, how does it work?
First, interested puppy raisers have to fill out an application, where they'll be asked about themselves, their household, other pets, and previous experiences with dog training. Those with dogs in the house already will have to provide vaccination records to be approved as a puppy raiser. (God, we never get sick of saying that ... puppy raiser.)
If approved, you get to pick up your puppy, which will be about 7-8 weeks, then you get to give him or her a name, and bam. That's it. The dog is under your care for about a year. You don't have to take the puppy everywhere, either, as it's important for the pups to experience a variety of environments, including being home alone. And, keep in mind, future leader dogs do not have the same public access rights as registered service dogs, so don't expect to be able to bring Goldie Hawn (just a suggestion) to brunch.
Vet visits are free if you take your puppy to the Leader Dogs for the Blind campus in Rochester Hills, but puppy raisers (squee!) are responsible for providing food, toys, and other necessities during the duration of the puppy raising.
Per the website, no puppy training or even dog-owning experience is necessary. They offer free online orientation sessions, as well as provide a manual, access to puppy counselors, as well as training sessions. The organization also notes that the Leader Dogs for the Blind network of trainers and puppy raisers are an active and helpful community and can provide assistance throughout the process. Your job? Keep the puppy safe, attend monthly meetings with other puppy raisers, be consistent with training, keep in touch with the organization, and, embrace the experience. After all, Goldie Hawn could change a life.
It should be noted that not all puppies will advance to service dog level, due to a number of factors, at which point they are considered "career changed." Been there. Don't worry, it's not something you did, but the pup might be destined for something else, like serving as a service or assistance dog in another field, or you or someone else may be able to adopt the puppy should they not meet the criteria to become a full-blown service dog.
To learn more about how to apply to be a potential puppy raiser, visit leaderdog.org/volunteer/raise-a-puppy or call 888-777-5332.
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