“The best part about raising a dog with SSD is the moment they put that puppy in your arms for the first time,” says Meghan Miller. “It’s incredible to know this little pudge is going to do something amazing, even if you don’t know what it is.”
Meghan is one of our puppy raisers. She and her husband Kyle raised SSD London, who was just placed with his partner in October, and they are currently raising SSD Garnet and SSD Slider.
|Garnet and London|
Sharon Medford, another puppy raiser, received her first “little pudge” SSD Uncle Cameron just over nine months ago. “The best part about raising an SSD dog is watching them grow and learn, turning into an amazing dog that will change someone’s life,” she says.
We have 103 dogs being raised in our program right now, and we’re continuing to grow. That means that we’re going to need many more puppy raisers to train our puppies, love them, and give them the solid foundation of skills that they’ll need to be service dogs.
Our puppy raisers come from a variety of backgrounds. Some have years of experience with dogs, others have never really been around them. They live in houses, apartments, and row homes in the city, in the country, and in suburban neighborhoods. They’re single individuals and families, some with kids and some with all kinds of pets.
The reasons people choose to become puppy raisers are just as varied. Shanne Keeny is a veteran and has many friends who are veterans. “I was fortunate that I didn’t get sent to serve on foreign soil,” she says, “but many of my friends did, so veterans with PTSD are close to my heart. I wanted to raise a puppy that might help a veteran someday (but of course, I will be happy if a puppy I raise helps someone else, as well).”
Shanne raised Lagoon, who was discharged, and is currently raising SSD Grantville, who is in advanced training.
Kelly Slabonik wanted to do something together with her daughter so she could learn the joys of giving back. She says, “At first I didn’t think I could give up the dog, so I started as a sitter. And then a trip to a Team Training and meeting and becoming friends with individuals with service dogs made the hard part of giving the dog up seem not so hard.” Kelly and her daughter Nikki soon became puppy raisers. Together, they have raised Taz, Rizzo, and Drizzle, who were all discharged, and SSD Nitro, who will be going to Team Training with his new partner in February.
|Drizzle (yellow) and Nitro|
Lisa Slater is one of our newer puppy raisers. She and her husband are raising 10-week-old SSD Hotchee. They decided to become puppy raisers when they were thinking about getting another dog. “I wanted to do something more meaningful than just getting a puppy for my own selfish reasons. While rolling through Facebook, I stumbled upon SSD and began researching. After sharing with my husband, his response was ‘sounds like a great fit for us.’ I know every day with every interaction I have with this pup that we are creating a solid foundation for the dog that will provide a service to someone with needs much greater than my own.”
However, giving up a puppy who is ready to move on to the next part of their journey is hard. In fact, one of the most frequent things our puppy raisers hear from people is “I would never be able to give up the dog.”
Becky Lamb, our puppy raiser coordinator, understands what our puppy raisers go through when they raise and give up their puppy. She began raising SSD Scotia in September 2010 as the best way to learn her new job. Scotia went on to become one of our breeders (she was recently retired), and Becky welcomed SSD Bridge (now in advanced training) and now SSD Jade into her home.
Becky often says to our volunteers, “If you have children, you don’t raise them with the intent to have them live at home forever. You want the best for your kids. You want them to go out there and change the world! It’s the same for the dogs. I want them to go out there and change the world for someone.”
Giving up SSD London was one of the most difficult things Meghan ever did. “But seeing him work with his new partner was the most rewarding moment I think I will ever have,” she says. “You have to keep in mind that this dog was never yours, not truly. They are always meant for a much larger purpose. It’s by no means easy. But the first time I saw our dog with his partner, the first and only thought that came into my mind was ‘worth it.’”
Our next Team Training, where people receive their new service dog and learn to work together as a team, is coming up on February 2-18. If all continues to go as planned, five dogs will be placed with their new partners.
“Nitro, my Pony Boyo, is working toward a February Team Training,” says Kelly. “And I can’t wait to see him go off with his partner to do great things! When one journey ends, a whole new journey is right around the corner. I think the new journey also helps make the journey that’s ending a little easier to handle. Becky always likes to call and say ‘I have a puppy for you!’”
It’s true that when one dog is finishing his journey with his puppy raiser, there are several new puppies who are just beginning. Around that same time that five dogs will be entering Team Training in February, 15 nine-week-old puppies will be just starting their journeys to become service dogs.
Wouldn’t you like to take home your own pudgy, wrinkly-faced puppy and help shape him or her into an amazing service dog who will change someone’s life?
If you would like to raise a future service dog, apply online today or call us at 717-599-5920 to learn more!