Since I first started volunteering at the Cat Haven (in Western Australia) in 2012 I have found volunteering with animals to be endlessly fulfilling. Volunteering in any form is rewarding, but volunteering with animals has the added bonus of cuddles with your favourite critters, and of helping creatures that can’t speak out for their own welfare. It was this first volunteering role that lead me to pursue a career with animals.
Back in my home city of Melbourne I have been volunteering with the RSPCA (Vic) shelter in their admissions department (and a couple of sneaky shifts in the vet clinic). With a bit more time on my hands I decided to find out what other opportunities where out there, and was amazed to see how many different options there are. Over a series of posts I will share with you these options, starting with…
Puppy Raising – Assistance and Guide Dogs
With the biggest time commitment of any volunteering role, puppy raisers are a special breed. These foster families take in puppies on their way to becoming guide dogs or assistance dogs (for other disabilities) from about 7 to 10 weeks of age, until they are 12-18 months old and ready to start their training. In this time, the puppy must be toilet trained, learn to walk on a lead, and be exposed to as many different places, people and experiences as possible. To be chosen as a carer you will need to have a fully enclosed and safe back yard, be able to keep the puppy in doors at night, not have children younger than school age and be able to commit to supervising the puppy for most of every day – the puppy should not be left alone for more than 3 hours a day.
Once they are old enough, the puppies return to the training organisation for assessment and, if successful, training. After a year or more as part of the family, it can be very difficult to say goodbye. However, knowing that you have helped someone with a disability will help to fill that space in your heart with something else that’s warm and fuzzy. And who knows, they might just come back into your life once they retire from service…
If you live in Melbourne and you’re interested in becoming a puppy raiser you can find more information at the following websites:
I’d love to hear your puppy raising stories! Please share in the comments below if you’ve ever been a puppy raiser, or met any of these wonderful assistance-dogs-in-training.