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)

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

disabilitiesDogspuppiesvolunteers

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chris Grzywacz, Seed and Stone’s development agent, holds products from the Songhees Cannabis S + S store on April 20. (Jake Romphf/ News Staff)
First cannabis store opens on Songhees Nation, creates economic opportunity says chief

The Songhees Cannabis S + S had a soft launch at its 1502 Admirals Road location on April 20

Steven Manchur, who lives near the proposed site of supportive housing in Central Saanich on Prosser Road, said the province has misinformed the public about the site. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Central Saanich residents protest supportive housing project

BC Housing rejects claim that project will lead to more crime

RCMP have appealed to the public for help identifying the man. (Black Press Media file image)
Police, dog unit called after man who exposed himself at West Shore elementary school

West Shore RCMP credits students, aged 11 and 5, for seeking help

A convicted sex offender, whose crimes included offences against children, was arrested at Gonzales Beach after the man was spotted by an off-duty officer. (Black Press Media file photo)
Convicted sex offender arrested at Gonzales Beach

After committing crimes involving children, offender barred from public beaches, being in proximity to kids

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

Ambulance paramedic in full protective gear works outside Lion’s Gate Hospital, March 23, 2020. Hospitals are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 patients more than a year into the pandemic. (The Canadian Press)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate declines, 849 cases Tuesday

Up to 456 people now in hospital, 148 in intensive care

Christy Clark, who was premier from 2011 to 2017, is the first of several present and past politicians to appear this month before the Cullen Commission, which is investigating the causes and impact of B.C.’s money-laundering problem over the past decade. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)
Christy Clark says she first learned of money-laundering spike in 2015

The former B.C. premier testified Tuesday she was concerned the problem was ‘apparently at an all-time high’

The city asking the public if they want to pursue legal action against the province and their decision to override the city on the Victory Church issue. (Jesse Day Western News)
Penticton ready to sue province over homeless shelter

City council voted unanimously to authorize legal action

Police executed a search warrant at the Devils Army Clubhouse on Petersen road in Campbell River on August 10, 2017.
Murder trial into 2016 Campbell River killing underway in Victoria

Ricky Alexander is charged with the first-degree murder of John Dillon Brown

..
Abbotsford nurse at ‘breaking point’ pleads with public to take COVID-19 seriously

Instagram post urges general population to stay home, wear a mask and get vaccinated

Most Read