OMG this is the best job ever! You can be a puppy raiser
International Guide Dog Federation is now on the prowl for new 'puppy raisers'
For seven years Jan Dewaal has been giving the visually-impaired “sight and mobility”.
He receives no medals, money or glory for his efforts. Instead his reward comes in the form of excited wagging tails, sloppy tongue slurps and the loyalty of man’s best friend.
“It’s just pure joy,” said the retired IT consultant who is a puppy raiser for the South African Guide Dogs Association for the Blind. The organisation breeds high-end Labradors, Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers for the visually impaired.
To ensure that the dogs are of a superior stock, the association imports semen from approved guiding schools around the world.
“This semen is from proven working dog lines. A shipper is used to transport the semen in ‘straws’ at a specified temperature,” said Leigh De Beaufort, the association’s head of kennels and puppy raising.“Schools who are members of the International Guide Dog Federation donate semen to other schools, thereby allowing diversity in the breeding programme.”
Female dogs are then artificially inseminated at the Onderstepoort Veterinary Academic Hospital in Pretoria.
While it costs up to R100,000 to care for and train the puppies, the benefactors – the blind – pay just R5 for their “new eyes”.
The association is now on the prowl for new “puppy raisers” in Johannesburg and Pretoria – those who can give loving homes to mischievous, adorable puppies for a year, until they “graduate” into becoming “the eyes” of the blind avoiding obstacles, preventing accidents in traffic, locating destinations and giving constant companionship.The Puppy Raising Scheme was developed to provide the association with dogs who are well prepared for both advanced training and their future work as guide, service and autism support dogs.
“The pups are placed with puppy raising families at around seven weeks of age where they are treated as part of the family for the first 12 months of their lives,” said De Beaufort.
“At one year, just when that mischievous puppy has developed into a well-behaved and mature dog, they are brought in for their formal training. Many of the families start all over again with a new puppy.
“Pups and their family become very attached. It’s emotional when the pup graduates and goes on to the new owner; the puppy raiser spends almost every waking moment with the pup while on the programme. Then the separation transition begins taking place when the pup is called in for formal training as they stay at the centre during the week and go home on weekends to the puppy raisers – much like a weekly boarder in school would do.
“The goal is to bring up a pup and in so doing enrich the life of a differently-abled person by giving the gift of independence and wonderful companionship,” said De Beaufort.Dewaal, who has raised the nine pups during his seven years as a puppy raiser, is heartbroken every time he parts with them.
“We don’t do it for medals or glory. It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s pure joy when the dog starts its working life.”
Joanne Garrett, who is almost completely blind, takes on lifts, escalators and stairs with no fear after getting Enid, her guide dog, three months ago.
She no longer falls off pavements or walks into people.
“She’s given me independence. I couldn’t go many places before and often injured myself.
“She’s basically my eyes. Her puppy raisers – a family from Wales living in Johannesburg – did a really brilliant job with her.
“I was trying to cope with my failing sight and struggling to hold onto my independence. Having Enid has completely changed my life. I feel whole again,” she said.