Lending a helping paw can mean a world of difference to those in need and, for one young puppy, finding the right home and teacher is the first step.
Parker, a four and a half month old black Labrador retriever, needs a puppy raiser to help him become a service dog for adults with disabilities
"I was actually trying to find a puppy raiser that lives on the North Shore," said Sharon Hill, co-founder of West Coast Assistance Teams, a non-profit organization that provides service dogs to people with disabilities. "Of course I won't turn down a good puppy raiser that's in another area."
WCAT has been training and placing service dogs for the past 15 years and is run entirely by volunteers.
Parker was named after one of WCAT's long-time volunteers, Sandy Parkinson, and has been sponsored for his first year by North Vancouver Legion 118.
"It's the first time the North Van one has sponsored us," said Hill. "I thought it would be nice to have him over there so that maybe we could link them up with the legion and they could go to legion events and that kind of thing."
Hill said the role of puppy raiser is to help raise and look after the dogs.
"Our program is unique in the fact that we actually teach our puppy raisers everything they need to know to train the dog to be a service dog," said Hill. "It is a long commitment, it's between 18 months and two years to be with the organization, and they will actually learn how to train the dog to do switches and push buttons and everything, so we do want people who want to actively be involved."
Hill said before taking in the dog, she meets and interviews potential puppy raisers.
"I need to see their home, make sure it's a suitable home for having a dog."
"Our puppies are never brought back and put in kennels. So they go from the puppy raiser to the client, which means that yes, the puppy raisers do have them a little longer than they would with say another organization where they're going back to the kennel and the instructors are finishing them off."
Parkinson, Parker's namesake, is a lifetime resident of North Vancouver and has been volunteering with the organization for more than two years.
"The dogs really need to have a lot of exposure to different environments and different people so that they can be comfortable in any situation and they can support the client that they are helping," said Parkinson.
"You just try and imagine if you had a disability and you relied on your dog to be with you all the time, where would you go?"
Parkinson, who is now a puppy sitter, said the dogs go everywhere with her, including work. "Everywhere you take them they are a part of you," she said.
For more information on becoming a puppy raiser, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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