Tara Douglas knew she was in for a lot of work when she agreed to be a puppy raiser for the BC Guide Dog Services, but she didn’t realize she was in for just as much love.
“The dog is never yours, you just have stewardship, you’re a true guardian,” she says. “But you do grow very fond of them.”
Last year Douglas documented her experience raising Noelle, through a regular column with the Oak Bay News.
The Guide Dog Service is again looking for volunteer puppy raisers to begin in September or October.
The puppies are trained to become guide dogs for blind/visually-impaired individuals, or autism support dogs for children with autism and their families. Volunteer puppy raising families have a puppy in-training live with them from seven to eight weeks of age to 14 to 18 months old. Through the supervised program, puppy raisers help prepare BC Guide Dogs pups for advanced training by teaching them basic obedience and socialization skills.
Douglas and her husband Murray Frost took in Noelle to help make a meaningful contribution to society in their retirement.
“It’s a very good organization,” says Douglas. “You’re not left on your own at all, there is a lot of help.”
While training Noelle,, Douglas went to weekly classes with other puppy raisers in Greater Victoria. “It was a place where you could always commiserate – it’s just like having a child who goes through different phases,” she says.
Puppy raisers are given explicit direction on how to raise and train the dogs, and the Guide Dog Service pays for all the expenses.
“They really look after the puppies. They have the very best medical attention, eye exams, shots. … They get all the top treatment they could possibly get,” she says.
When the time came to send Noelle back, Douglas says it was not easy. “It was a tough one, but you know it’s looming.”
During further training Noelle was found to be unsuitable as a guide dog. “She’s what they call noncompliant because she startles and barks,” Douglas explains.
After 10 weeks of further training for Noelle, the couple was asked if they would like to take her back. The perky pup returned to Oak Bay in May to become a permanent part of their family.
“Now she’s living a life of bliss, lounging on the couch and eating chips, indulging herself,” Douglas says with a laugh.
For more information about the organization or about becoming a puppy raiser, contact Laura Mahoney, Puppy Raising Supervisor, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at 250-217-3132 or go to bcguidedog.com.