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NEADS World Class Service Dogs, based in Princeton, MA. today announced that it is actively recruiting volunteer Full-Time Puppy Raisers in New England.
The importance of the Puppy Raiser program is paramount; NEADS World Class Service Dogs change lives every day but cannot do so without proper training. NEADS is ramping up its Full-Time Puppy Raiser program in an effort to meet the ever-growing demand for Service Dogs. The Full-Time Raiser program complements its Prison PUP Program, through which a majority of NEADS dogs have been trained but which is now at capacity.
According to NEADS, full-time puppy raiser candidates must be willing and able to:
- Take Service Dogs in Training into their homes and look after them for 12 to 16 months, working on critical socialization and basic obedience
- Physically manage a young and energetic dog
- Attend one weekly training session with a NEADS trainer. Classes are held virtually, at the NEADS campus and at locations mutually convenient to the Raisers and Trainers
- Care for the NEADS dog 24 hours a day, seven days a week, providing a safe, healthy and loving environment (NEADS dogs can only be left alone for a maximum of two hours at a time as puppies and no longer than three to four hours as they get older)
- Provide daily training, socialization and physical exercising
- Handle the puppy and teach them crate training, house training and other appropriate behaviors in the home
- Be financially responsible for certain supplies, namely a crate, chew toys, dog bowls, appropriate training toys and a long leash line; NEADS provides all food and medical care
“While we realize the commitment that we ask our Full-Time Puppy Raisers to make is a major one, we also cannot reinforce enough how meaningful this process is for the Raisers,” said NEADS CEO Gerry DeRoche in a statement. “Our volunteers have the once-in-a-lifetime experience (or hopefully more!) of preparing these amazing dogs for a career of helping others with disabilities, including those who are deaf or physically disabled, children who have autism, or veterans who have PTSD; or providing therapeutic assistance in a variety of professional settings. And the added stressors and isolation created by the COVID-19 pandemic has made the need for our highly-trained Service Dogs more critical than ever before.”
When Harvard University closed its campus in mid-March, Full-Time Puppy Raiser and Harvard student Amanda had to return home and return Vegas to NEADS. Here is an excerpt from her letter to Vegas, her Service Dog in Training: “I am so incredibly sad that our time together ended so shortly. In just two months, you have taught me so much about what it means to serve others so wholeheartedly and take all of life’s learning opportunities by the paws … I will never forget you, and I hope that you will always carry the memories we shared.”
Those who best qualify to become Full-Time Puppy Raisers range from young families to couples to retirees to individuals. Most importantly, the candidates need to devote time, energy and love to successfully socialize and train a NEADS Service Dog in Training. Socializing consists of following NEADS outlined field trip levels to expose the dog to everyday life in public settings, including malls, restaurants and grocery stores to familiarize with various sounds, sights and people.
Candidates are permitted to have other pets at home, but must determine if they are happy, relaxed and friendly towards people and other animals. NEADS dogs may also go to work with their Puppy Raisers, with the approval of their employers and NEADS.
Once an interested candidate completes his/her application, the NEADS Volunteer Manager will be in touch to schedule a virtual orientation, which is followed by a home visit with NEADS staff prior to receiving the Service Dog in Training. NEADS provides a “Service Dog in Training” vest, as well as all food, veterinary care, and flea, tick and heartworm medications for the duration of the dog’s training, at no cost.
Applications are available online here.