Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Joy of Being a Puppy Raiser

Guest post by Catie Wallace, puppy raiser and volunteer for Susquehanna Service Dogs

Catie with her first dog, Blitz

I’ve been with Susquehanna Service Dogs for about two years now and it still feels like just yesterday I got my first puppy.

I got involved with SSD by the Yursha family. When they got their first dog (Parks), I thought it was the coolest thing ever and had to do it myself. I asked my parents if I could raise a puppy and always got the answer “no.” After two years of asking about every other week, I finally got the answer I wanted— “yes, but we are only doing one.”  Of course, I was super ecstatic and got on the website right away and filled out the application to raise a puppy.  A few months went by and I got the email saying we have a puppy for you, and I remember bursting into tears, I was so excited.

On June 24, 2013, I got by first dog Blitz, a tiny, fluffy, wild eight-week-old puppy. Training started that night with her the second I got her home. I was already out in public and practicing things with her and having everyone oh and ah over her. Training continued and it was stressful at some points and other points I was so happy seeing how she progressed. Unfortunately, Blitz did not make the program. But she is living happily in my house.

Remember the part when I said my parents told me only one dog? Well, I ended up getting another puppy, SSD Blush. I remember going to puppy hug her litter and playing with all the puppies, except Blush. Blush was that puppy who slept in the corner the whole time and didn’t make herself known, unlike her siblings. We got the call Thursday night saying Blitz was being discharged, but they had another puppy for us. Of course, I said yes right away. My parents were another story. Blush is still in the program and still in training, and will be going to advanced training soon!

Now SSD Jubilee, my newest puppy, is a seven-month-old black lab and the sweetest thing ever. We told the staff that we would love to raise another one but under one condition. This puppy has to be black or chocolate and cannot have a name that starts with a B, since Blitz and Blush are yellow and we can’t tell them apart. Could you imagine three yellow labs?! Another reason why we wanted to raise another puppy was because this past year we had to put our two house dogs down, and with that happening and Blush getting ready to go to advanced training we didn’t want Blitz to be alone and get bored. So far Jubilee is doing amazing with her training and I am so proud of everything she is doing and how fast she is learning things!

L to R: Blitz, Jubilee, Blush

Raising multiple dogs at once can be frustrating at times, when you’re trying to train one but then you have two more sitting at your side wanting to learn, too. But it has also helped me become more social with people and want to volunteer more. I love going out in public with one of the dogs and having people ask me questions about the program and always thanking me for doing what I do. And lastly, with raising dogs you gain a whole other family. Going to outings, play dates, and even class there is always someone there helping you, talking to you, and you always end up sharing stories about your dog.  (Who ever gets tired of puppy stories?!)  

A couple weeks ago I was able to help out at team training. That was the best experience I was able to be a part of.  Seeing the dogs working and bonding with their partners was so rewarding, and knowing that one day one of my dogs will be doing that is so rewarding. Waking up several times a night with an eight-week-old puppy, all the frustration, the tears, and all the proud moments is so worth the end result of seeing that eight-week-old puppy grown up and helping someone else. 

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