BLACKSBURG, Va. – Service dogs don’t become service dogs overnight.
At Saint Francis Service Dogs, they start training from the very beginning.
Michelle Cane is raising a future service dog, Fred.
“Oh, he’s so fun,” Cane said. “So, I think that he was the most reserved puppy when he went through his temperament test, but he’s actually really flourished at our house.”
Fred, like all service puppies, lives with his puppy raiser for a year. The volunteer isn’t responsible for all of the training required, but they help them on their way.
Loreen Tompson runs the puppy-raising class at Saint Francis.
“They take it into their home,” Tompson said. “They have a whole lot of fun with it and they help prepare that puppy so it can go to advanced training.”
When the puppy raisers go out of town, puppy sitters step in.
Right now, they are currently low on puppy-sitting volunteers.
“And the neat thing for the puppy themselves is they’re going into different homes so that they’re learning that not everybody lives the same,” Tompson said.
“So, it’s kind of like they started out as litters and now we’re like part of this big puppy family now,” Cane said.
Saint Francis covers all of the costs associated with the puppies including food, vet visits, and equipment.
The mission is to help people with disabilities better experience the world.
“They do all these things and show so much love and they have to pour all this into puppies,” Tompson said. “And then they turn around and they have to give those puppies up. They want to help somebody. And I just I’m so thankful for people who are so unselfish that they’re willing to do that. "
As for now, the puppies still have a long way to go. Eventually, they will partner with a new friend and sit with them to help enhance their life.
If you would like more information on Saint Francis, visit their website.