Heather Ohmart brought home 8-week-old Radar to raise for Canine Companions for Independence. Heather will care for, love and housetrain Radar until he is about four months old. Then she is sending Radar to prison. Yep, Radar will spend about a year at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility where inmates will provide training to help prepare him for a life of service for someone with a disability.
Heather works with inmate dog handlers at Coffee Creek Correctional, contributing her time and talents as a dog trainer.
“About 11 years ago, I heard a Canine Companions graduate speak at my Lions Club about her service dog who had recently passed away,” explains Heather. “This woman said she couldn’t even leave her house independently without a service dog. She was on the waitlist to get another service dog, but she said Canine Companions needed more puppy raisers to help raise these life-changing dogs.”
Heather completed the application to raise a puppy before the meeting even finished, and she has been raising puppies ever since. When Heather heard about the prison, she was inspired by this unique puppy raising program and wanted to get involved. Radar is the 100th puppy raised by Coffee Creek inmates and the 50th puppy since Heather began managing the program seven years ago.
“We’ve accomplished this incredible milestone as a team. I’m riding on the coat tails of all the people who are involved in this program. It is truly a team effort,” Heather says humbly. “This program gives the inmates a way to give back to the community. But if the dogs spend their whole time in a prison, they wouldn’t be socialized to all the sights and sounds of the outside world, including kids, elevators, loud cars and more. So we have a team of volunteers who take the puppies on field trips.” Heather also thanked the donors, prison staff and local vet hospitals that help make the Coffee Creek puppy raising program possible.
Thanks to Heather’s many years of devoted service to Canine Companions’ mission, the national board of directors awarded Heather the 2014 Jack Warnock Volunteer Service Award. “Heather exemplifies the spirit of the Jack Warnock Volunteer Service Award and our board of directors is proud to add Heather’s name to the list of outstanding volunteer winners,” states Corey Hudson, CEO.