If the constant company of a puppy sounds like heaven, Dogs with Wings has a volunteer role for you.
The Edmonton service dog organization is looking for two to four people in the Red Deer area to train puppies in basic obedience and expose and socialize them to community situations like visiting a restaurant, shopping or going to the workplace.
Volunteers in the puppy program must have the dog with them at all times and are only allowed to put them in a kennel in very limited circumstances. Attendance at regular training sessions is also required.
Director of training Elisa Irlam said Dogs with Wings is looking to Red Deer to broaden its volunteer base and get the word out about the organization.
But raising a puppy isn’t for everyone.
“It’s a big commitment. They would get a puppy at about eight weeks old and have it to about 14 months — 24/7,” Irlam said.
When pups are out in the community, they wear a vest to let the public know they are working.
In the home, the vest comes off and they’re a regular indoor pet, but trained to a higher standard of manners.
Volunteers are also needed to provide boarding homes for short-term care when a puppy trainer needs to board a dog.
Started in 1996, Dogs with Wings trains guide dogs for people who are blind or visually impaired, assistance dogs for those with physical disabilities, and dogs for autistic children.
Dogs with Wings uses Labradors and sometimes Labradors/golden retriever cross dogs for their size, health, temperament, willingness to work and ability to form deep bonds with their human.
If the puppies meet the basic health, temperament and skill criteria, they enter the adult training program before they are matched with a client who needs assistance.
Irlam said Dogs with Wings keeps a close watch on its dogs and all volunteers and clients go through careful screening.
“We retain ownership of our dogs at all times even when they’re with the client so we know how they’re doing, and if they’re being kept properly, and if they’re safe and if they’re working well.”
For more information about Dogs with Wings, go to www.dogswithwings.ca or call 780-944-8011.