Guide Dogs puppy raisers needed: calling for 20 volunteers in Newcastle to help raise Guide Dogs pups

GOOD DOG: Guide Dogs NSW/ACT puppy development advisor Page Power with Aberglasslyn puppy raiser Rhonda Morris who is raising Neva to become a guide dog. Pictures: Simone De Peak
GOOD DOG: Guide Dogs NSW/ACT puppy development advisor Page Power with Aberglasslyn puppy raiser Rhonda Morris who is raising Neva to become a guide dog. Pictures: Simone De Peak

The big question with fostering a dog often is how difficult would it be to have to give them back after raising them and forming a connection?

But when it comes to raising a puppy to be a guide dog, Aberglasslyn's Rhonda Morris says the outcome makes it all worth it.

"It is difficult [saying goodbye]," she said. "But you know it's going to help a person in one way or another. A person's life is relying on the dog.

"Even the dogs that don't end up becoming guide dogs can become pets as therapy.

"The joy you get from raising a dog and seeing them through the stages to be able to help someone is exciting. And you get to have all the cuddles in between."

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT is celebrating the arrival of its latest litters, but the young pups are in need of volunteers to help care for and train them over the next 12 months while they develop into a qualified guide dog.

Up to 20 volunteers are urgently needed in the Newcastle area to take on the challenge.

Ms Morris is now raising her second pup, Neva, through the program. Her first dog, a black labrador named Spot because of the markings on his tongue, is now in official guide dog training.

"I have my fingers crossed for him," she said. "It's very exciting when they make it to training."

Ms Morris, who has two dogs of her own, said the process was made much easier by the support Guide Dogs offers throughout the 12 months.

"They provide everything," she said. "They supply all their medications - flea, tick and worming, vaccinations and food."

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT puppy development advisor Page Power coordinates the program here in Newcastle and said there is certain criteria they want for puppy raisers.

"We say the dogs can't be left for more than four hours," she said. "So someone who can be home or at least take the dog with them.

"But we don't want people who take them everywhere because they have to learn to be independent."

SIT: Raiser Rhonda Morris with her puppy-in-training Neva.

SIT: Raiser Rhonda Morris with her puppy-in-training Neva.

The dogs also need a fully fenced yard and volunteers must be able to attend training sessions, which are weekly for the first eight weeks then cut back to fortnightly, where the dogs learn to follow commands such as sit, stay, drop and to sit between their trainer's legs. Some of the programs are held at Lambton Park, while others are held out in the community at train stations or shopping centres to give the dog real-life experience.

Ms Power said it's a challenging program, but a rewarding one.

"They are hard work," she said. "It's pretty full on so we want to find people who are able to dedicate the time. And you do get attached, there's no way around it.

"But it's a nice community feeling. It gives people the opportunity to give back."

To find out more about becoming a puppy raiser, visit guidedogs.com.au

This story How you can help raise a Guide Dogs puppy first appeared on Newcastle Herald.