Thursday, July 9, 2009

Puppy Sitters and Kennel Sitters

Before SSD Coriander started her advanced training this week, she spent a few days with a puppy sitter. The family who volunteered to puppy sit took her into their home and hearts and continued her basic training until it was time for her to go to the kennel for advanced training.

Puppy sitters could be described as temporary puppy raisers. They welcome an SSD puppy into their home when the puppy's puppy raiser goes on vacation or has an emergency where they may not be able to take care of their puppy for a while. The puppy sitter not only provides a loving home for the puppy, but also continues his basic training. Puppy raisers provide the sitters with everything they'll need: crate, food, leash, scarf, bowl, toys, puppy journal, and of course, the puppy. Puppies can be anywhere from 8 weeks to 18 months old.

Kennel sitters are similar to puppy sitters - they also provide a temporary home for an SSD dog. As the name suggests, kennel sitters watch a dog that is in advanced training at the kennel. Advanced training in the kennel can be stressful for the dogs. Training becomes very intense and targeted and the dogs need a break just to be dogs, just like people need a weekend away from work to rejuvenate and recharge. Kennel sitters provide that weekend away from the kennel, giving the dogs time to just be dogs and completely relax. Because of our kennel sitters, our dogs in advanced training are happier and show fewer signs of kennel stress. You can read about SSD Roanoke's time with his puppy/kennel sitter before he was paired with his new partner.

Our organization would not run nearly as smoothly if it weren't for our puppy sitters and kennel sitters. Our volunteers are so important to us and the dogs. Puppy and kennel sitters may provide only a temporary home for a dog, but they form lasting connections with each other. At SSD Team Training in June, a newly place dog and her former puppy sitter saw each other for the first time in a while and there were tears of joy and lots of canine kisses. Soon this service dog and her partner will form bonds that are just as strong, if not stronger, as they navigate their lives together. It is this wellspring of love that goes beyond training that makes service dogs more than just a working partner. They become loving friends and companions, and our puppy raisers, puppy sitters and kennel sitters play an important role in preparing these dogs for a life of service and companionship.

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