50 Puppies?! Oh My!

By Cheryl Sacrates

Published in: Update - Issue 2 - 2013 »   

Hearing the pitter patter of four tiny feet is completely ordinary for Leader Dog puppy raisers. However, for Nan Nellenbach and Pat Boyd, 2013 marks something extraordinary—the year in which 200 tiny feet have walked through their doors—the year they each will begin raising their 50th Leader Dog puppies.

Nan stands in the kennel lobby at Leader Dog holding a golden retriever puppy

Nan Nellenbach picked up her 50th puppy,
Joy, on May 17, 2013.

As a child, Nan Nellenbach could be found glued to the television watching Rin Tin Tin. She loved dogs. In 1976 when her five children (ages 1–10 at the time) brought home a flyer from 4-H about Leader Dog's need for people to raise puppies, her journey began.

Pat Boyd's introduction to puppy raising was quite similar; she got involved in 1977 after learning about raising Leader Dog puppies through her daughter's 4-H dog obedience program. With her children, Pat raised puppies through 4-H until 1993. After her last child left home, Pat continued raising on her own.

Each has their own reason for their longterm involvement. Pat stated that she not only enjoys puppy raising, but it gets her out and about, and she has met numerous friends through the program. She also loves receiving the graduation photos of the dogs she raised with the clients they will guide. For Nan, it's that she feels she has gained more than she has given. "I'm in awe of [Leader Dog's clients] and what the dog gives them—it just amazes me," says Nan.

Pat stands outside holdng a golden retriever puppy

Pat Boyd & Dream

Pat and Nan shared their words of wisdom for current and future puppy raisers. Pat says, "You've got to love the puppy like it was going to be your own" and "When the dog becomes a really nice house dog—that's when it's time for them to come back." Nan's advice, "You've got to have time, be patient and love dogs. All dogs are different—evaluate each one separately. You have to be a little smarter than them. [Remember] you are doing this for a reason—you aren't doing this for a pet."

Much has changed with Leader Dog's puppy raising program since 1976 when you could raise more than one puppy at a time (Pat often had two and Nan remembers having three at one time). "Change is good," says Nan. "There is so much more support now when raising a puppy. We all have our niche and as long as Leader Dog will have me, I will keep doing it."

We'd like to thank Nan, Pat and all our puppy raisers for their devotion to Leader Dogs for the Blind, our clients and our canines.