Cheryl Tradewell (left) with Blossom, Danielle Swanson with Aidan, and Sonja Seyfort with Sage. The volunteers will train the puppies for up to 18 months before they are transferred to advance training, and finally their forever home. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

WATCH: BC Guide Dogs needs puppy training volunteers

BC & Alberta Guide Dogs is looking to double the number of volunteers on the Island

A gymnasium in the District of Saanich was full of golden, yellow and chocolate Labradors retrievers this week. While the tiny puppies could get rambunctious, it wasn’t all tail wags and and games – it was also some serious business. They were training their hardest to be guide dogs, after all.

The BC & Alberta Guide Dogs service breeds and raises Labs for the use of its guide dog program, its autism support dog program and its Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) support dog program. The dogs are bred in Delta, and given to volunteer puppy trainers for 14 to 18 months for 24/7 hands-on training and acclimatization. The puppies then go to advanced training before being given to their forever home.

Now that the organization has amalgamated with the Vancouver Island Compassion Dogs to help veterans with PTSD, however, more dogs are being bred and more volunteers are needed to help raise the puppies.

“Right now we have about 20 volunteers on the Island,” said Samantha Jagt, puppy training supervisor. “We’re looking to almost double that number. … We have quite a few females expecting in October, and more will come after that.”

ALSO READ: B.C. Guide dogs is looking for volunteer puppy raisers

The puppies go everywhere with the volunteers to get them comfortable with many different environments, and to socialize them with other people and dogs. They also meet weekly with Jagt for important lessons on listening, restraining impulses and following commands.

“You need quite a bit of time to be involved in the puppy raising program,” Jagt said. “We have weekly obedience meetings, monthly one-on-one visits with myself, vet visits and special events.”

All medical costs and basic needs are paid for by the BC & Alberta Guide Dogs (though trainers are welcome to buy them lots of toys and are responsible for poop bags), and specific training is expected outside of the weekly lessons.

For Carla Williams, who has been a puppy trainer for five years and raised four dogs in the process, it is well worth it.

ALSO READ: Victoria veteran begs people to please not touch his service dog

“I came for the dogs and I was really surprised to find a community, and a lot of new friends,” Williams said. “I really enjoy the challenge, I’ve learned a lot about dogs, dog training and about myself, so we’ve really enjoyed it.”

MaryJo Duggan always wanted to help raise a puppy, but couldn’t do so until she recently retired.

“Now I can give back, and it’s great, I really enjoy it,” Duggan said. “Not only are you giving back to your community in B.C. and Alberta, but you’re also feeling the rewards of hard work, so there’s a lot of pride in that.”

While both Duggan and Williams knew that it would be sad to give the pups up when they were done their training, they both agreed it was a worthwhile endeavor.

“Speaking from experience it’s a totally worth it heartache,” said Jagt, who’s raised four puppies herself. “Because you really do change someone’s life.”

Anyone interested in learning more can visit bcandalbertaguidedogs.com

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

Like us on Facebook Send a Tweet to @NicoleCrescenzi
and follow us on Instagram

Just Posted

Power outage planned for Victoria General Hospital

Island Health says essential services and patient care won’t be impacted during Oct. 19 outage

Free firework safety courses coming to the West Shore right before Halloween

No permit? You could be fined anywhere between $100 and $10,000

Bonfires allowed in Saanich for $10 but only on Halloween night

Residents can purchase permits at any Saanich fire station

Persons Day to be marked with literary readings in Sidney

Peninsula authors to read from their new books relating to women and courageous journeys, Oct. 18

Vendors open doors to new futures at Black Press Extreme Education & Career Fair

More tham two dozen employers, educators signed on for Victoria event

VIDEO: Greater Victoria, here’s the news you missed this weekend

Dog killed in alleged hit and run, Goodlife Marathon takes over city and more

‘Save the kids!’ Dorian survivor tells the harrowing story of his Canadian wife’s death

Family held a funeral and placed Alishia Liolli’s remains in a niche at a cemetery in Windsor, Ont.

Okanagan woman, 91, votes at advance polls despite broken hip, shoulder and wrist

Angela Maynard has voted in almost every election during her lifetime

Heiltsuk Nation open first Big House in 120 years in northern B.C.

Opening means the community now has an appropriate space for spiritual and ceremonial events

Singh says NDP would form coalition with the Liberals to stop Tories

Singh was in a Liberal-held riding Sunday afternoon in Surrey where he was pressed about his post-election intentions

‘My heart goes out to the mother’: B.C. dad reacts to stabbing death of Ontario boy

Carson Crimeni, who was also 14, was bullied relentlessly, his dad says

The one with the ‘Friends’ photoshoot: Kelowna group recreates TV show intro

A friend’s departure prompted them to create something that really says, “I’ll be there for you”

Canadian Snowbirds plane crashes before air show in Atlanta

Pilot lands safely after ejecting from jet

Share crash data, private insurers tell David Eby, ICBC

B.C. monopoly makes drivers retrieve their own records

Most Read