Leader Dog for the Soul

The Williams family kneels outdoors with a black lab

I first considered raising a puppy for Leader Dogs for the Blind when our school-age son declared, “I am going to have ten dogs when I grow up.” I decided then that our children needed to learn to be responsible pet owners. Although we have always had a family dog, our kids did not know the time and effort that goes into developing a well-mannered pet. As they moved into middle school, they were required to log volunteer hours. They willingly participated, but their hearts were not always in it. In 2009, I decided it was time to raise a puppy so they could learn to LOVE volunteer work.

Both objectives were met: they learned how to properly raise a dog and how fun and rewarding volunteering can be. But we all got SO much more out of it, including the satisfaction of working together toward a common goal and honoring a commitment even when it is difficult. We showered that puppy with love and had to regroup and come to terms with him being career changed. He was adopted by a wonderful family and has single handedly turned six people into dog lovers! His true purpose.

We have since raised three additional puppies. Although the main responsibility is mine, my family is extremely supportive and invested in each puppy. I have also taken on three additional volunteer duties at Leader Dog. For three hours each Friday, I assist in feeding, enriching and bathing puppies as an on-campus puppy raiser. The puppies are at Leader Dog for approximately one week between leaving their host home and being assigned to a raiser. With the encouragement of another volunteer, Mary St. Clair, I also began volunteering as a resident orientation guide. Once a month, resident orientation guides welcome clients to the campus and give each one an individual tour of the residence building and their room.

My fourth volunteer role is one I was not seeking out but has turned out to be amazing. Our fourth puppy was pulled for breeding and we became her host family. Witnessing puppies come into this world and the loving care the mother gives them is indescribable and unforgettable. She is currently due with her second litter.

One of our most memorable Leader Dog experiences was meeting Miguel, the client who had received one of the puppies we raised, and his interpreter. Miguel was over the top with gratitude to Leader Dog and us. Despite the language barrier we had an incredibly heart-warming visit. He explained to us that on issue day (the day that clients receive their Leader Dogs), the instructor told him that he was receiving the smallest dog in that class. He told us that he quickly learned that although she was small she had the biggest heart of all, after which Miguel, my family and even the interpreter cried. I beamed with pride for the puppy we raised and knew all was right with the world.

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