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How I became a Guide Dog Puppy Raiser brings us back more than 5 years ago. It all started at the Orange County Pet Expo way back in 2006. Becoming a guide dog puppy raiser was one of several volunteer activities I was considering at the time.
In the past I had volunteered for many other organizations, but now I wanted to do something to help out people and animals. The number 1 and number 2 volunteer activities on my list were:
- Fostering Dogs and Puppies
- Guide Dog Puppy Raiser
Here’s how we went from volunteering for organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and Special Olympics to Fostering Dogs and Puppies to finally becoming Guide Dog Puppy Raisers!
Fostering Dogs And Puppies
As I mentioned earlier I was interested in volunteering my time helping both people and animals. Back in 2006 I had recently volunteered to help put up dry wall at one of the local habit for humanity homes and while it was/is very fulfilling to help out others by building a home I wanted to do something that involved helping out both people and animals.
A few weeks after putting up drywall for Habitat for Humanity I attended the OC Pet Expo which is held every year in April at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, CA about 15 minutes from my house. I spoke with many of the volunteers at various organizations and decided that I either wanted to volunteer as a foster parent for dogs and puppies or as a Guide Dog Puppy Raiser.
Becoming a Guide Dog Puppy Raiser was a long term commitment. Most organizations required you to raise a puppy from approximately 7 weeks of age until they were 18 months old…that’s nearly 1 1/2 years!!! However, fostering was much more short term and usually lasted until your foster puppy was adopted. I therefore opted to try fostering with a local rescue called Cuddly Canines. We had the opportunity to rescue and adopt out two litters of puppies and a 4 year old purebred long haired German Shepherd. Here’s a picture of the German Shepherd puppies we rescued:
I really enjoyed fostering puppies. Out of the twelve puppies and dogs we fostered the shortest stay in our home was 2 weeks and the longest stay was 3 months. However, I have heard that some dogs and puppies can end up at your home for much longer than 3 months.
Guide Dog Puppy Raisers
I really enjoyed fostering puppies however, I wanted to give Guide Dog Puppy Raising a try. I knew the commitment would be much longer then fostering, but the thought of helping raise, train, and socialize a puppy to become a working guide dog for someone in need sounded like an amazing way to spend my free time.
So I went ahead and submitted my application to the three local guide dog organizations with groups located in Southern California: Guide Dogs of America, Guide Dogs for the Blind, and Guide Dogs of the Desert.
Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) – GDB was the first organization to contact me. I spoke with two of GDB’s group leaders and also attended several meetings and outings. I was very much on the verge of joining GDB as a puppy raiser.
Guide Dogs of America (GDA) – I submitted my application to GDA in October, I called the puppy department three times, and I emailed them several times. I was very persistent, but I nearly gave up on GDA until late December when I was finally scheduled for a home interview.
Guide Dogs of the Desert (GDD) – I submitted my application and emailed them several times, but never heard back from them.
I know all of these organizations are very busy so I don’t fault any of them when it takes a little time to get back in touch. Guide Dogs for the Blind was by far the fastest and most responsive of the three organizations. However, after attending several group meetings I felt like I was lost amongst a large group and had some difficulty making a connection. As I mentioned Guide Dogs for the Desert never got back in touch with me after I sent my application so I really can’t comment on their group meetings or activities. Finally, after waiting nearly 3 months I had the opportunity to speak with the Orange County Guide Dogs of America (OCGDA) Group leader on the phone and then during our home interview. After speaking to Tammy and attending several group meetings I really enjoyed the smaller more personable Orange County Guide Dog Puppy Raising group. I went ahead and decided that the Orange County Guide Dogs of America Puppy Raising Group was the group for me.
I’m currently raising my third guide dog puppy in training for Guide Dogs of America and I’ve been documenting most of their activities on this blog since 2007. We also started a YouTube Channel to document our current pup, Dublin’s adventures as a Guide Dog Puppy. Here’s the first episode:
So that’s how I became a Guide Dog Puppy Raiser! Are you interested in becoming a Guide Dog Puppy Raiser too? If so, then make sure you come back tomorrow and find out how you can become a guide dog puppy raiser for Guide Dogs of America.