IMG_5347As our friends on Facebook know we are currently (Oct 2016) volunteer puppy raisers and sitters of Sloan a 4 month old Black Lab who is a Service Dog in Training and belongs to Pacific Assistance Dogs Society (PADS.ca). We learned about PADS from raiser volunteer one day at the Coquitlam Farmers Market in June of this year. What we hadn’t realized before that was that anyone, yes even you, can be a PADS volunteer. My motives where different than my families – or at least Amber and Amelia’s. Those two have been bugging me about getting a dog or cat for years. I wanted to shut them up. I think I lost and gained at the same time.

IMG_5514Amber and I had a cat when we were first married. It was Amber’s cat and I’m not really a cat person. My years as a cowboy on my uncle’s ranch and having grown up with two large dogs saw little purpose to them.  I’m also too practical for Amber’s liking. In my mind a cat has no useful purpose unless it is outdoors chasing rodents, being chased by a dog or keeping Grandma company. Amber’s cat, wouldn’t go near her but loved me. But the taking care of business on our then 1 year old couches and then our brand new bed, well that cat developed a purpose. He was sent to a friend’s place that had a barn. My mistake ever since was saying that if we get any pet beyond the fish and hampsters that have deceased in our home, it would be a dog. A smart, trainable useful dog. So that day in the farmer’s market was not really helpful to me because I really don’t have time for a dog.

Amber being so smart set me up well. A PADS dog was perfect. We would start as a sitter to get a sense of it. It doesn’t cost anything really. Purina donates the foot. Vet bills paid for. A small donation of $100 on our part and some dog toys and treats. Sure I say, go to the information session. Of course I don’t mind attending 5 different puppy training classes to observe. Just because I don’t want a dog doesn’t mean I don’t love seeing puppies!

IMG_5309You see, I had it all figured out. We would sit a few dogs of different ages. The walking in the pouring rain, cleaning up dog poop, having a new pair of shoes chewed, dog smelling house, waking us up in the middle of the night and all the things I remember as a kid would be experienced without actually having to own a dog. They can get their fill, I don’t get any bills to pay and we don’t end up with 12 year new child commitment. Amelia is 6 years from 18. I’m counting the days to freedom!

Love-me-doThen it happened. A moment of weakness. Are you sure you only want to be a sitter? We are really in need of raisers right now. We have two litters, 18 adorable puppies, that need raisers at the end of August says Lisa. By this point we had learned a lot about the program, the dogs, the training, the commitment. My biggest concern was sitting a dog and screwing them up because we didn’t really understand the training side of things. Then the “puppy, puppy, puppy” voice of my beautiful wife with her own puppy dog eyes. So, they really do sleep a lot during the day I ask? You have one that is going away after only 2 months as part of an exchange program? ”puppy, puppy, puppy” I hear again. Hook, line and sinker. Sure, I can commit to 2 months. Besides, it will be better to learn and understand the training part starting with a puppy that, well, I can’t really screw up.

Fast forward and we are a week or two away from Sloan heading to Indiana for his continued training and if he is lucky, breeding! It has been a wonderful journey and experience. He is ridiculously smart which is a double edge sword when you screw up in your consistency. It is amazing how quickly they learn. We have learned a huge amount about training a dog. I feel like I’m the next Dog Wisperer (see smart comments above). So the questions have started. Are we going to take in an incoming dog? How about another puppy? Can we get a dog of our own now? I don’t know how many times Amber has sent me the “smartest dogs by breed and size list”! Oyeee…

A PADS puppy it is like a toddler. They need your attention, your training and to be with you all day. My schedule has the flexibility so Sloan has, as I fully expected, become my project. But somehow I’m also the one taking him for a walk at 9PM every night… not part of the plan. We go for our Mundy Park morning walks in any weather (Westskins rain pants and coat plus hikers keep my work clothes clean and dry underneath). He then sleeps from 8-Noon. We then go for a 30min lunch walk of 1.5k. He sleeps until about 3-4 depending what time Amber picks him up. Then he plays and sleeps and plays. The long walks are my thing. I love the exercise, continue to drop pounds and either clear my mind or listen to an audio book or podcast. So it is pretty easy at work other than I can’t just ‘run out’ or book appointments at the last minute. When it comes to new places, like a toddler, he is very curious and busy. Makes it hard to take along to sales appointments. Once he has seen something new a few times he is fine. So he handles ‘office’ type environments really well.  As he gets older, there is less that is ‘new’ even at only 4 months old. There is a built in ‘sitter’ support network. He spent the day at Business Objects when I attended a conference in Vancouver. An overnight with 4 month old Eras. A weekend in Whistler with Brass a 4 year old breading dog. We have met a bunch of other great people too. For me at this point I need a bit more flexibility in my schedule over the next 6-9 months but I would will do it again. Until then we will try a bit of sitting.

In most cases when you start with a puppy you raise them up to 18-24 months. At that stage they are evaluated and based on their weaknesses and personality they determine what future purpose they will fulfill. There are many different paths they can follow and what is really cool is that while they leave your daily life, they are not forever gone. More like the kids going off to College and work but we call it Advanced Training. Most raiser families stay in touch with the recipients and see the dog again. So they are never really ‘gone’ like ‘gone gone’. In some cases the dog is not suitable for one reason or another and is put up for adoption in which case the raising family is usually given first rights then it works through the other volunteers.  Kind of like the kids that life at home into their 30s!

What I would like you to get is why I would do it again. The most moving and unexpected experience for me came from attending the Graduation Ceremonies in early October. It is there that we not only parade our pups across the stage (you gotta see this video as Sloan is the only one to bring out a big laugh) but really see the end result and benefits of what we do. It is the quintessential win-win-win. If you are curious about the why read my blog post “Why PADS? Cause Puppies Can Save Lives“.

PADS is a non profit. Their ability to produce dogs that benefit youth, victims and the disabled is only limited by the resources they have to operate the program. It would be great if you would consider adding them to the list of charities you support each year. Even just $20 will help make a big difference. Donate Now.

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