When you think about what volunteering at Leader Dogs for the Blind, what comes to mind? Caring for dogs and puppies, of course! But there is so much more! Volunteers, both on and off campus, participate in every aspect of Leader Dog operations. And the impact they make is felt around the world!
There are two volunteer off-campus assignments: puppy raisers and breeding stock hosts. You could say that it all begins with the breeding stock hosts. Currently, there are more than 70 breeding stock hosts. These volunteers care for mom and dad dogs 24/7 for their breeding lifetime. And when the mom has puppies, the mom hosts care for her and her puppies (which can be as many as 10!) until they are about 7 weeks old. That’s a lot of work!
Enter the puppy raisers! Over 350 puppy raisers take an adorable Future Leader Dog puppy into their home and raise it for 12-15 months, teaching it good house manners and acclimating it to all kinds of situations.
Currently, there are more than 70 volunteer on-campus assignments and 350+ volunteers. These can be divided broadly into three main service areas: canine center, client services and training, and administration.
Two of the many, many important roles volunteers fill at the canine center include on-campus puppy raisers (OCPR) and canine support assistants (CSA). OCPRs help care for puppies when they arrive from the breeding host and before they go to off-campus puppy raisers. Volunteers assist busy paid team members with all kinds of things like feeding, cleaning up and playing with the puppies. Puppy numbers vary from week to week but there can be dozens of puppies on campus at one time. CSAs also provide a vital role in helping staff maintain calm in the dog villages and providing individualized attention to dogs who are here for training.
Client Services and Training
In client services, volunteers make the client experience a little easier. For example, residence orientation guides greet new arrivals and give them a personal tour of the Polk Residence Center, helping them get settled in their new temporary home. Administrative assistants ensure that all the client paperwork for class is completed in time. This includes client contracts, health certificates for dogs, client ID cards, graduation paperwork, emergency medical envelopes and filing. Having volunteers to assist with the administrative duties allows our team members more time for client support through phone and email. Client satisfaction survey volunteers administer exit surveys to all our clients at the end of their training. The information gained from these surveys are so important as we continue to improve our programs and services for clients. Some volunteers help at our off-campus location in downtown Rochester. Client guides assist clients at our downtown Rochester training center with everything from getting oriented with the facility to interpreting for Spanish-speaking clients.
For other volunteers, the focus is on assisting team members in marketing, philanthropy, facilities, volunteer engagement and special events. For example, docents conduct campus tours for the public and the many Lions clubs who visit each year. They provide valuable insight to visitors on the importance of the LDB mission in hopes that these visitors will spread the word. Special event volunteers also interact with the public and provide crucial assistance during our special events. Client drivers specialize in helping clients get to and from the campus from arrival points such as the airport, bus and train stations.
Without all our enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers, Leader Dog would not be able to do what we are here to do – which is to empower people who are blind or visually impaired with the skills needed for safe independent daily travel.
If you’d like to find out more about volunteering, please visit our website at www.leaderdog.org/volunteer.