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“The very first puppy I ever raised


was Eric, a deep red Golden Retriever,” said Laura. She still has the six-page, stapled manual. Today, her home library is comprised of mainly dog books, her favorite being “If A Dog’s Prayers Were Answered” by Suzanne Clothier. Puppy raisers sometimes have the


opportunity to adopt a puppy they raised if, for some reason, the dogs are released from the program. Igor had been in training at SEGD to become a service dog, but had to be released after being diagnosed with hip dysplasia. Laura happily adopted him, and he is now an Ambassador Dog for SEGD. Together with Aloha, another of her dogs, Laura and Igor have done volunteer therapy work comforting children at the Duval County Courthouse in Jacksonville and hospice patients through Community Hospice, also in Jacksonville. The only requirement to become a puppy raiser, said Laura,


is love. It is not necessary to be a professional dog trainer. SEGD teaches the puppy raiser all the skills needed, provides a manual for reference and a wonderful support system. The puppy raiser pays for food and accessories, while all veterinary costs are taken care of by SEGD.


The puppy goes home with a puppy


raiser at ten to twelve weeks of age. The main job as a puppy raiser, is to teach the dogs basic obedience, home manners and socialization. After a year or so, the dogs will head back to SEGD where they will begin more intense training to become guide dogs or service dogs. Ultimately, they are matched with someone on the waiting list for a service or guide dog. “Yes, it is difficult giving up a dog


Basket Case: Subie takes a break from his studies on how to be a future SuperHero.


you’ve lived with and cared for,” said Laura. “But, knowing that you can take a puppy into your home and into your heart, and raise it for someone who


needs that dog, why not be that blessing for somebody else? That’s the driving force for me.” Of course, the dynamics in a household change each time a


puppy is brought into the fold. Igor, who is three now, seems to be tolerating Subie. Laura said her husband may not be as passionate about the puppies as she is, but, “He is very patient,” she said, smiling. Perhaps a piece of every puppy raiser’s heart stays with every


puppy who goes on to become a service or guide dog. “I’m so glad that my body has caught up with my heart,” said Laura. “It is the best volunteer job you will ever have.”


U


44 THE NEW BARKER


www.TheNewBarker.com


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