SAN DIEGO — A local organization is urging San Diegans to consider opening up their hearts and homes to future guide and service dogs.
Guide Dogs of America | Tender Loving Canines urgently needs volunteers to help raise five litters of Labrador retrievers and Labrador/Golden Crosses. They’ll be ready to move into homes in December and January.
The organization pairs its clients from the United States and Canada with service or guide dogs free-of-cost. They graduate approximately 60 pups per year and are working to get that number up to 80.
“These puppies will grow up to lead the blind, provide a sense of safety and security to our nation’s military veterans, open doors of possibility for children on the Autism spectrum, and serve a variety of vulnerable populations,” said Stephanie Colman, GDA | TLC’s puppy program coordinator. “But that only happens when we have enough volunteers to raise the dogs and give them a great start in life.”
Puppies move into volunteers’ homes at 8 weeks old and stay for 12-15 months. The puppy raisers, who range from families to single people and apartment dwellers, give the dogs loving homes as they learn basic obedience, house manners and social skills.
The organization said puppy raisers have to commit to consistent training, and dogs can’t be left home alone for long periods of time. They should accompany raisers during their daily activities.
Volunteers pay for food, toys and flea/tick preventatives. The organization covers all veterinary care and puppy raisers get support through regional classes and meetings, cohorts of fellow raisers, meet-ups with professional training staff and more.
When the dogs return to GDA | TLC, they are evaluated and assigned to the guide dog or service dog programs. Guide dogs are trained at a 7.5-acre campus in Sylmar while service dogs enter the organization’s rehabilitative prison training program, which operates in three California prisons. Carefully screened inmates learn to train service dogs using positive reinforcement methods.
Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer puppy raiser can text “puppy” to 51555, or visit the organization’s website.