Brandon's Story | Skipper's Story | Journey's Story
Sign for our newsletter to receive more puppy raiser stories.
Gold Award Puppy Raising
“At first her dad and I were like ‘yeah right, we’re going to raise a puppy and then give it away,’” explains Teresa, Kelly’s mom. “If not for Kelly encouraging us to approve puppy raising as her project to earn the Girl Scout Gold Award, we would have never done this. It was the best thing we have ever done.”
The Ludovice family returned Nicola III to Canine Companions last year for professional training after loving, socializing and training her for a year and a half.
“What we saw the day we turned her in; it was such an inspiration to attend the graduation and matriculation ceremony,” says Teresa. “Attending the ceremony was the perfect way for a puppy raiser to see what it is going to be like if the puppy you raised graduates. How can you not let that puppy go when you know their potential to help someone?”
“I have disabilities myself. I have a developmental delay and I tend to freak out when it is really loud. I learn at a slower rate than other kids my age,” says Kelly. “But we were even able to adjust Nicola’s training a bit to work with my disability.”
Kelly’s favorite part of puppy raising was taking Nicola out in public and seeing people’s reactions. She also enjoyed giving presentations about Canine Companions. “It was my passion for assistance dogs that got me through the public speaking. It is something I love to talk about,” says Kelly. “I really like to inform people that Canine Companions give the dogs for free to people with disabilities and they do a really great job of matching the dogs.”
“Kelly had to show leadership to earn her award,” says Teresa. “So she did presentations for six different groups. I was so impressed that an 18-year-old could do public speaking like this in front of kids of all ages and adults. Puppy raising was such a great family experience.”
The Ludovice family said they’d love to raise another puppy if Nicola graduates, but if she doesn’t make it they will keep her as a pet. “So it is win, win. If she makes it, she gets to do what she was born to do. But if she doesn’t make it, we’ll love to have her as our pet. Maybe she’ll have a change of career; there are lots of nursing homes around here that would love to see her visit,” says Teresa.
The Gift of Raising a Puppy
It started off just like any other day–Jeff LoParo sat down to breakfast and opened the paper, but Jeff didn’t realize that reading the paper that morning in 2013 was going to change his life. “I think I’m one of the only people that still reads a printed paper!” laughs Jeff. “That is how I first heard about Canine Companions for Independence; I read a story in the paper about puppy raising.”
Jeff had been around dogs all of his life. His family raised show dogs and his dad was an American Kennel Club judge. “I love training dogs in obedience and I liked the idea of having a buddy for my black lab, but didn’t want a 14-year commitment,” Jeff says. Raising a puppy for a year and a half appealed to him, so he applied online. Three months later he received Gordo.
Gordo was the first puppy that Jeff raised for Canine Companions. Now in professional training, Gordo will be meeting several people with disabilities this spring to hopefully find his match and change their life forever.
Jeff, a former marine fighter pilot and self-described big guy, says “Even thinking about Gordo graduating makes me want to cry, because I’m so happy for him and what he’ll go on to do.” While raising Gordo, Jeff attended a few graduation ceremonies. “At the first graduation I went to, a mother with a son with autism was receiving a Canine Companions assistance dog. The mother explained to the audience that her son’s autism was very severe. Doctors had told her that if they couldn’t get her son to come out of his shell and connect, his behavior would likely worsen as he got older and he’d be in danger of self-injurious behavior. Now the boy has made a connection with his assistance dog. He has a buddy now. That dog potentially saved this kid’s life. And as a puppy raiser we have the ability to make this possible.”
Now Jeff is raising his second puppy, Waylon. “The time I spend with the dogs and the other puppy raisers…this process and these connections I have with these dogs is life-changing–the dogs do so much more for us than we do for the dogs,” says Jeff. “And the impact is so far reaching. Not just one life, but many lives. It just makes you feel so good about what you are doing.”
The Joy of Giving
“I'm the one who's so lucky,” says Diesta, Elmo’s volunteer puppy raiser. Did you know that being a volunteer puppy raiser is a privilege and a gift? While it’s true the puppy raisers give time, money, resources and love to a puppy that they will eventually return to Canine Companions, they receive the wonderful gift of knowing their hard work and dedication will bring greater independence to an adult or child with a disability.
Learn more at www.cci.org/puppyraiser.
Sharing our Mission
Our volunteer puppy raisers are sometimes asked to share the mission of Canine Companions in their community. Going to schools, service clubs and other venues gives our puppy raisers an opportunity to recruit new supporters and continue to socialize their Canine Companion puppy.
“We took Emma to the Ohio State Fair and she was an ambassador for Canine Companions at their information booth. She gave out quite a few book marks,” shares Jerri and Jerry, Emma’s volunteer puppy raisers.
Our puppies and their puppy raisers truly are our ambassadors to the community. Thank you Jerri and Jerry for your time, efforts and commitment!
For more information on puppy raising, visit: www.cci.org/puppyraiser.
When you become one of our volunteer puppy raisers, you become part of an extraordinary community. It’s a unique group of individuals with the same purpose – help support the mission of Canine Companions.
"No matter where I find myself, I've experienced a swift and unique bond with our other raisers. They understand the joys, toils, laughs, and tears that come with raising a Canine Companions puppy”, says Susan, volunteer puppy raiser of Ethan. The friends that are made in puppy class, the field trips, and the wonderful staff make the volunteer puppy raiser’s efforts and progress easier and more productive. Susan continues, “Community is one of the greatest benefits of puppy raising!"
For more information on puppy raising, visit: www.cci.org/puppyraiser.
Eliza, Making her Rounds
E Litter pup Eliza has made several trips to Craig Hospital in Englewood, CO visiting patients. Her volunteer puppy raiser Lisa takes the opportunity to socialize Eliza to these situations. Not only do the people in the hospital enjoy meeting and petting her, Eliza gets to be around new people and situations. This Christmas, Eliza will be back at Craig Hospital with other Canine Companion puppies, dressed as reindeer – wonderful!
Thank you Lisa for all your efforts, love, and dedication as a volunteer puppy raiser!
A Future So Bright
Our volunteer puppy raisers get to see first hand how amazing and special our dogs really are. Volunteer breeder caretakers set a solid foundation and then our volunteer puppy raisers work with the puppy for 15-18 months before bringing them back for professional training. Each puppy raiser has high hopes for the dog they have trained.
“We have just a mere six months left with these pups, but you know, I can't wait to see what they're going to do next,” says Donna, Euka’s volunteer puppy raiser.
Whether they are working with a child or adult with a disability or a person who will use the dog to help people with disabilities, our dogs really do have bright futures!
"May I pet your dog?"
When out in public with a Canine Companions puppy, our volunteer puppy raisers get approached by many people. Fortunately, most know to ask before petting or approaching the puppy. Once permission has been given, the puppy needs to be well behaved and under control.
“We are working on having her give fewer kisses to the friendly people that she meets,” say Maggie, Ella’s volunteer puppy raiser.
Meeting and greeting people in a friendly, calm and controlled way is all part of the training that our puppies work on. Thank you Maggie for sharing our mission and raising, loving and training Ella!
Raising Emily is fun!
Being a volunteer puppy raiser is a commitment of time, financial resources, and love, but it is also a ton of fun!
“We just love having Emily around! She is an amazing dog, so great with the children, and she is teaching us a lot as well,” says Dani, Emily’s puppy co-raiser.
"We’ve met really great people and had the opportunity to talk about Canine Companions because she’s a walking billboard. A fabulous, furry, and extremely well-behaved billboard,” Dani continues.
The adventures the puppy raisers and puppies go on may vary, but they are always a great time!
Thanks to live stream, the E Litter puppy raisers got to "tune in" and watch their puppies for the first eight weeks of the puppies’ lives. When the puppies arrived at their new homes, the volunteer puppy raisers weren't entirely sure what to expect. What kind of puppy would their puppy be??
“As I watched him in his first puppy videos, he seemed to be the most rambunctious of them all. I seriously thought that he would give me a challenge, but he is so easy going and relaxed, it's just wonderful,” says Diesta, Elmo’s volunteer puppy raiser.
It's true, once the puppy is away from the pack, their needs change and they begin to learn to how to adapt in our world. Each puppy is unique and each puppy raiser is amazing! The impact of the puppy raisers work through this transition is incomparable.
Thank you, Diesta!
Travels with Everett
The E Litter pups have had many opportunities to travel with their volunteer puppy raisers. They take road trips, stay in motor homes, camp in tents, visit major cities, and more.
Everett’s puppy raiser Jeff says, “Everett has turned out to be a great traveler and seems to adapt well to other homes and other pets.” Learning to travel well is very important for a Canine Companions puppy. Each trip is a chance to grow in their work.
Assistance dogs need to be able to travel and adjust to new surroundings and people. As a puppy raiser, Jeff knows how crucial it is to take Everett with him and get him used to making these journeys.
Thank you, Jeff for efforts and dedication.
Oh the Places We’ll Go!
"E" Litter pup Ella has been taking so many adventures! “She loves going to new places and meeting new people,” says volunteer puppy raiser Maggie. They have visited the city of Toronto and spent lots of time at the harbor front. Ella loves it there!
Bringing a Canine Companions puppy to various locations and seeing different people and animals are part of the socialization that is so important for a future assistance dog. Our volunteer puppy raisers are responsible for these early interactions and experiences.
Parks, museums, ball games, dentist’s office, and the mall are all on the long list of places to go! Maggie adds, “Ella enjoys visiting restaurants with me since she gets to have a nice nap under the table.”
Thank you Maggie for sharing the world with Ella!
The Puppy Raiser Question
As Ethan grows and becomes daily more beloved, his puppy raiser and her family think ahead to the moment of truth - when they bring Ethan back to Canine Companions for professional training. Ethan will have been with them for 18 months, and then they will return him. Puppy raisers are always asked, "How will you ever give him up?!"
Ethan's puppy raiser Susan says, "We honestly don't know yet. But we see two possible outcomes: If Ethan is not among the 40% of Canine Companion puppies chosen for team placement, we can have him back! If he is chosen, we will be privileged to experience the miracle of handing his leash at graduation to a person with a disability, knowing to the deepest depths of our hearts what Ethan will bring to his role as loving companion and service dog. This sounds to us like a total win-win!"
Euka, Out and About
It’s always so much fun taking a Canine Companions puppy out and about to new public places. The pup gets to explore different environments and is exposed to a variety of sights, sounds, textures, and people.
Recently, volunteer puppy raiser Donna brought “E” Litter pup Euka to a restaurant. Donna said, “[Euka] is learning about what it takes to be invisible under a restaurant table, because she knows we want to hear those magic words of ‘I didn’t know there was a dog under there’ when we leave.“
Donna has also taken Euka to presentations, most recently to one for the Daughters of the American Revolution. They did a demonstration and Donna reported that Euka was “a rock star with the ladies there.”
Euka is getting such great socialization training – thank you Donna!
Co-raising Emily Brown
“E” Litter pup Emily is being co-raised by two Canine Companions staff members. Co-raising a puppy is a great way to volunteer while still having some flexibility with schedules and commitment. It’s also a great option if you are new to puppy raising.
“Since Erin has already been a puppy raiser, she has a ton of experience that she can share with me. It’s great co-raising with someone who has been through it before. We share the cost, the training, the responsibility, and the fun!” says puppy co-raiser Dani.
Spending a week at a time with each of her co-raisers allows Emily to feel comfortable in both homes and adjust to their routines.
What a lucky pup! Puppy co-raiser Erin says, “She has so many people who love her and she is exposed to so many different environments and experiences. She has two families - It's double the love!!”
Are you interested in puppy raising or co-raising? Visit our Puppy Raising FAQ's for more information.
"E" Litter pup Emma has begun the next step in her socialization training - going to public places. Her puppy raisers know to start with short trips to places that won't over stimulate her.
Meeting new people, seeing unusual things, and hearing curious noises all help Emma to become a confident assistance dog.
Her puppy raiser Jerry says, "She is doing very well with all of the traveling, family, friends, and strangers she has been meeting and interacting with them."
People often ask if they can pet one of our program's puppies. When they see the vest, they know to ask. We say yes so long as the pup is in a sit and the visitor remains calm and relaxed.
Eliza Gets a Bath
Here's a tip from Eliza's puppy raiser, Lisa: When bathing a puppy, be sure to have a very large tub so the pup can't escape. It was tremendously helpful when Eliza got her bath a few weeks ago. Eliza would have preferred to be snuggled up sleeping under Lisa's desk, but eventually she accepted what needed to happen and they got the job done. Eliza really enjoyed having the warm blower on her. It helps that Lisa plays the hair dryer game with her each morning. Remember to give lots of praise to make bathing a positive experience and never leave your pup unattended.
Eliza got clean and sweet and ready to get muddy all over again. Lisa is taking such care to socialize and prepare Eliza for her future work as an assistance dog.
Puppy Elmo vs. Christmas Tree
"The Christmas tree has been a bit of a challenge," share Elmo's puppy raiser Diesta.
"I knew that it would be within the first hour of watching Elmo."
"We barricaded the perimeter with wooden wine boxes. He just climbed up, knocked them over and grabbed an ornament, " Diesta continues. "With careful monitoring, this has seemed to cease."
Diesta is doing a great job supervising Elmo and preparing him for life as an assistance dog where he'll be expected to resist the shiny temptations of a Christmas tree.