When the Marshalls’ black Lab reached the end of his life, the family was devastated.
“He was my pal. He went to 14 years when we had to put him down,” said Bob Marshall. “It just about destroyed me. I can’t do that again, but I do still want a dog.”
The puppy-raising program at B.C. Guide Dog Services has provided the perfect solution for the Marshalls – and the dogs.
Puppy raisers are volunteers who begin caring for future guide dogs several weeks after they’re born. The volunteers take in pooches for 15-18 months, socializing them and getting them comfortable with the outside environment.
The raisers are responsible for developing the puppies into obedient, well-socialized, confident adult dogs. The canines then undertake professional guide dog training to assist people who are visually impaired as well as children with autism.
B.C. Guide Dog Services is currently looking for more volunteers in the Surrey and North Delta area. The Marshalls are some of the more prolific puppy raisers, having just taken in their third pup, a black Labrador named Jenny. They finished caring for their previous dog-in-training, a yellow Lab, at the end of March.
And while the Marshalls agree that the task is very enjoyable, Bob adds there’s a lot more involved than just raising a dog.
“It’s a lot of hard work, there’s no doubt about that. They’re with you 24 hours a day. At the doctor, the hospital, restaurants and airplanes… they’re a constant companion,” he said.
One of the key parts of the puppy-raising process is socializing the dog and getting it used to the busy city environment it will encounter while working as a guide dog.
“We started the socialization with Jenny the day we got her,” said Bob’s wife, Jan. “Walking her around the neighbourhood with lawn mowers and weed eaters going.”
B.C. Guide Dog Services mobility instructor Ashley Clark said it’s important the dogs have balance in their lives and that they get time to act like regular dogs.
“They’re given the outlet to sniff, play and greet other dogs,” she said. “When they’re given the opportunity to be ‘just dogs,’ it makes them better guide dogs.”
B.C. Guide Dog Services is seeking volunteers who are at home during the day who would be willing to raise puppies. All food and vet costs are provided by B.C. Guide Dog Services. Visit www.bcguidedog.com or call 604-940-4504.