I have always had dogs, they’ve been an important part of my life, my two daughters grew up with our first Labrador, Bella, who I always say looked after us as much as we cared for her! Two adorable Cavalier King Charles Spaniels followed her, sweet gentle little souls and when they passed on I had just retired and was looking for something worthwhile to do with my time.
Puppy walking an Assistance Dog
Puppy walking an Assistance Dog struck me as a worthwhile choice as I felt I could give something back in the form of a happy, healthy well socialised young dog to be trained to help someone less fortunate in their health than me. So, I applied, was duly checked out, and I was fortunate enough to be allowed to begin puppy walking these amazing puppies for an Assistance Dog charity.
The first one was a revelation! Such a clever girl, she taught me far more than as I taught her! These dogs are bred to work and when the time came for her to leave me to enter formal training, although it broke my heart to say goodbye to her, I could see she was so ready for a new challenge and she flew through her training and qualified as an Assistance Dog in record time.
Assistance Dogs and Breeding Stock
My next puppy came to me a month later and we very quickly bonded with each other. This puppy was also classed as potential breeding stock, this meaning that the charity had identified the litter that she was born into as being good pups for further breeding lines. As she grew her wonderful temperament started to develop and in due course she was put forward as a possible brood. This meant that she would not be trained as an Assistance Dog but would have an alternative career of providing future generations of these wonderful dogs.
She had to go through a pretty exhaustive set of physical and behavioural examinations and tests first as, of course, they only select the very best dogs to be their mums (and dads). Whilst all this was going on, I was having to make some decisions of my own as previously the dogs I had puppy walked had all entered training but with this dog being selected for breeding, I had the opportunity to apply to keep her with me – become her holder for the length of her breeding days, which she would spend with us, having her puppies in our home and helping her raise them until they were old enough to leave us and be taken to the Centre where they would then be sent out to puppy walkers across the country.
This is big commitment to make understandably, and one that I thought long and hard about but eventually I came to the point where I said to myself – she can either stay with me and we can do this together or I let her go and the charity will place her with someone else who had applied to become a holder. I chose to keep her and we haven’t looked back really.
Two Litters of Puppies
To date she has had two lovely litters of beautiful puppies, some of which I know have gone on to become Assistance Dogs. She has been the most incredible mother to her puppies, being such a calm and gentle girl. Their time with us (approximately 7 weeks in total) has been filled with such happy days, and we have needed to be both very organised and well prepared, but the charity provided us with endless support and help so that when her delivery time arrived I was able to assist her knowing help was just a phone call away if anything worried me.
Fortunately in both cases the puppies arrived safely and I felt honoured to be part of the process. My girl trusted me implicitly which was a truly humbling experience. I looked after her and she looked after her babies – that is until they became little hooligans (lovable ones!) and then she used to look at me as if to say – okay, over to you now!
In between litters we enjoy our time together doing lots of fun things. Being bred herself to work, and passing that essential gene onto her offspring, we enjoy dog training and she has proved to be an able pupil, loving the training sessions – this is work to her – and it is how I happened upon Bounce and Bella’s delicious training treats, tasty enough to hold her interest and small enough not to impact upon her waistline as we have to make sure she keeps to the optimum weight set for her size.
They are her favourites and I always have some ready especially when she has a litter and needs to be persuaded just a little perhaps to give the 7 week hooligans a last bedtime drink!