Friday, February 9, 2018

From Puppy Hugging to Puppy Sitting

Guest blog post by Vanessa Sobotta, volunteer puppy sitter

My history of volunteering with Susquehanna Service Dogs (SSD) began about 5 years ago. I had watched a friend of mine, Jane Jackson, raise SSD Topaz from a puppy, and was very intrigued by the process. Our family Golden Retriever had passed a few years prior, and my kids were begging for another dog. While our schedule wasn’t necessarily conducive to adding another pet to the family, I knew SSD had several programs that my family could partake in. Among these was puppy hugging.

The first litter we puppy hugged was the Czech litter. From the moment we sat in the pen with puppies practically rolling over us, the entire family became hooked. Any puppy is a bundle of joy—multiple puppies, however, is pure heaven.

I was subsequently introduced to their puppy sitting program. As I began to learn more about it, I felt sure that it was something my family wanted to do. I registered to be a puppy sitter, and anxiously awaited our home visit to be cleared. In the meantime, I attended the necessary classes. These classes taught the basics of puppy handling (it’s not as easy as it looks) and clicker training, a necessary part of the puppy’s training process. Once the home visit was completed and we were cleared for the program, my family and I were ready to go.

Over the past 5 years, we have been lucky enough to have a dog stay with us over the Christmas holiday. Our first, SSD Meade, was so much fun. He really got us hooked on the program. Every time we welcome a pup into our home I am in awe of the amount of love and work the puppy raisers give to their dogs. When the dogs are staying with our family, we try to take them on typical outings to help increase their comfort level with a new daily routine. Examples of these outings include kids sporting events, grocery shopping, or to work with me. Depending on the dog, they sleep in either my son or daughter’s room.  

The most surprising part of working with so many dogs is how different each of their personalities are. Some love to cuddle, while some prefer to keep to themselves. Some are goofy and playful, while others are very eager to work. If I’ve learned one thing over the years, it’s that no two dogs are ever the same.  

We have been lucky enough to watch over 30 SSD dogs in training, some of them more than once. It’s always wonderful to hear when they move up from their raisers into advanced training, or where they have been placed, whether it be with the CIA or with their partners.  

While our family has not decided to become full time puppy raisers, we love meeting the numerous dogs and volunteers that make SSD the outstanding program that it is.

If you’d like to join Susquehanna Service Dogs as a puppy sitter or puppy raiser, you can apply online.