PetWill Radio

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Raising a Service Puppy - a New Chapter

Today my life may have changed forever – hopefully in a good way. I recently had the opportunity to meet Megan Cloudman of New Horizons Service Dogs, some of her volunteers and some of their dogs at The Family Café. I thought I was at The Family Café, a Florida state wide disabilities conference) for the purpose of presenting on one of my favorite topics, “Special People, Special Planning.” Instead, the course of the universe was shifting, introducing me to new people and new experiences that will inevitably change my life.

I love dogs. Big dogs, little dogs, it really doesn’t matter. I love dogs so much, I already have five – mostly rescues but of various sizes, shapes and breeding. I have always wondered what it would be like to be a puppy raiser for a service dog organization. I have clients who have raised puppies. I have clients who have been the recipients of these puppies. I thought this was something I might do – later, when I have more time in my life! But why wait? When I met the people at New Horizons, my heart was changed and I wanted to do this – now. Really, I’m a little obsessed. I have thought about this prospect every single day since the possibility became a probability, and now, almost a reality.

My first hurdle was my husband, Joe. As I mentioned, we already have five dogs. We also have 3 horses and 4 cats. He reminds me regularly we don’t need any more pets. But this isn’t a pet in the true sense of the word. It’s an assignment with a beginning and an end. You get the puppy at 8 weeks, and then you have to return it for further advanced training at 18 months. Actually, Joe turned out to be the easy part. His only requirement was that I find a co-puppy raiser who could take on some of responsibility of the daily care and socialization of the puppy.

Fortunately, I have my own business where I already bring a dog (Leiden) to work every day. What’s one more, small, barely noticeable puppy? What I need is a co-raiser who lives close enough to my office (or even works there) who will bring the puppy to the office every day. Then every evening, I can bring my shared puppy to the co-raiser’s home for the evening. Then, rinse and repeat until Friday when I’ll take the puppy home for the weekend. It’s the perfect plan. Surely someone will think this is a great idea and say, “yes, pick me, let’s do this!”

I have to admit, this part turned out to be harder than I thought. I had several really, really good candidates who determined (for various reasons – all acceptable) this was not a good time for them to become part of a puppy-raiser team. Now I really am obsessed. I’m constantly thinking about the perfect puppy partner. Then wham! It dawns on me – my friend, Ellie Hall is a perfect choice. She lives near my office, she’s retired, we enjoy each others' company and she and her husband love dogs (and have even talked about getting one). I call her immediately and present “the plan.” Now I have to wait – until she has a chance to talk to her husband, think about all the pros and cons, weigh all the options, etc. When I can’t stand it any longer, I call her back – “What’s the verdict?” Yahoo! She says they discussed all the possibilities and they think this is a great time for them to consider co-puppy raising! I couldn’t be happier. Did I mention, I sent my application in yesterday, pre-Ellen’s agreement as a sign to the Universe that this was a good idea?

Now Ellen’s excited and she’s busily filling out her application. I’ve contacted Megan to let her know we are on board – now eagerly awaiting approval from New Horizons! Keep your fingers crossed!!!!

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