Guide Dogs is calling for Victorians to give the gift of sight this Christmas by signing up to become a volunteer puppy raiser.
Requiring up to 20 volunteers across the state, puppy raisers care for Labrador puppies for a year before they are ready to start their Guide Dog training.
Melbourne-based puppy raiser Loretta has been volunteering with Guide Dogs for five years and is currently raising Nash, a nine-month-old puppy currently undertaking his Guide Dog training.
“The puppy-raising process is amazing,” says Loretta. “Not only do I get the joy of looking after a new puppy, but I also get to be part of the incredible community at Guide Dogs. I have met so many dedicated people who are doing a fantastic job at supporting people with low vision or blindness.”
“Through raising puppies, I have realised how crucial this stage of the Guide Dogs training program is and how valuable the work done by all the team is during this journey. I thoroughly enjoy the process, the dogs never cease to amaze me with what they are capable of, their ability to understand feelings and offer support from a young age is astonishing,” she says.
“The hard work truly pays off because the end results are so rewarding, seeing the difference they go on to make in someone’s life,” says Loretta.
Naomi Wallace, Puppy Development Team Leader at Guide Dogs Victoria, says puppy raisers are a crucial part of the support services they offer vulnerable people in Victoria.
“The work we do at Guide Dogs Victoria wouldn’t be sustainable without the assistance of our Puppy Raisers. By volunteering as a Puppy Raiser, members of the community can help us to train and raise our beautiful dogs who go on to ensure Australians who are blind or have low vision lead a life without limits,” says Wallace.
Wallace says there are some requirements to becoming a puppy raiser, but the rewards far outweigh any adjustments that need to be made.
“Puppy Raisers need to have a fully fenced yard, be away from home no more than four hours at a time and have access to a car. Raisers must also be able to attend training days in their local area so the puppy can learn basic skills such as sitting nicely when being groomed, walking calmly on a lead and developing good house manners – all of which sets them up to develop the skills they’ll need to change a life.
“We are looking for people that are home most of the time, who are interested in putting effort into training and socialising the dog. What you will get in return is a fantastic experience,” Wallace concludes.