Playful and cheeky pup Fifi is going to grow up and change a life.
That’s according to her raiser Elsie Kruberg, who is looking after the pooch until she is ready for guide dog training.
While she says it’ll be hard to eventually say goodbye, the important role Fifi will take in someone’s life is an incredible reward.
“She’ll change a life, it’s a great reason to do it,” Elsie said.
“It’s going to be tough to give her up, but I know that she is going to go and do something amazing, so it makes it worth it.”
Elsie adds Fifi is a joy to be around.
“She is very playful and can be really cheeky, especially now that she’s got her own personality,” she said.
“Fifi is an amazing dog, she is so smart and really cuddly – she is always wanting pats and is very friendly and loving.”
Elsie is one of 23 Guide Dogs NSW puppy raisers in the Hunter Valley – the volunteer role involves caring for a Labrador puppy for about 12 to 14 months before they enter guide dog training.
Puppy development advisor Page Power says the raiser plays a vital role in the dog’s development.
“It’s mostly just teaching them to be well-behaved pets,” she said.
“First and foremost they are a puppy, so they’ve got to be able to live a puppy life with lots of play and lots of games, so there is nothing too fancy in what we do with them, we leave that up until they are a bit more mature and are going through guide dog training.”
The commitment also involves attending regular training and information sessions and vet checks.
Page adds the region needs more puppy raisers.
“We’re looking for people,” she said.
“We also need more temporary carers – our temp carers provide respite and if our puppy raisers have to go away, they can look after the dog for a short period of time.”
Page believes you gain a community when you join the puppy raising team.
“The biggest thing people say is that they would love to do it but they couldn’t give the dog back, you do get attached but it’s about the community feeling,” she said.
“All my puppy raisers are lovely, they’ve gotten friendships out of the program and I’ve got friendships with them and the fact that these dogs will go onto change someone’s life for the better is massive.
“We couldn’t train as many guide dogs as we do without our puppy raisers.”
Both Page and Elsie agree anyone with space in their heart and home for a dog can do it.
“It is tough to think about giving them back, but it is worth it, and it is so much fun to be able to have a dog in your life,” Elsie said.
She adds there is a great support system in place.
“Overall it’s been pretty easy, it can be mentally challenging because I don’t want to do anything to mess it up but Guide Dogs is there for you all the time, Page is such an amazing resource,” Elsie said.
“You never feel alone doing it, you always know you’ve got support so there is no way you can mess up.”
Puppy Raisers need to have a fully fenced yard, be away from home no more than four hours at a time, have access to a car and be able to attend training days in their local area.
Go to guidedogs.com.au for more information.