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From Tuesday’s Globe and Mail
June 17, 2008 at 8:28 AM EDT
Imagine adopting a sweet puppy, all floppy ears and pink belly. You survive the tribulations of puppyhood, the chewed-up shoes and housetraining accidents, and manage to teach basic concepts such as “sit,” “stay” and “the postman is not a mortal enemy.”
Then after a year, at a time when most dog owners can relax and enjoy the fruits of their training labours, you have to give your puppy back.
It sounds heartbreaking, but Kari-Lynn Ferreira has done it – 10 times.
She’s one of 200 foster parents who care for puppies in training to become service dogs for the Lions Foundation of Canada. Their mission: Turn eight-week-old puppies into good canine citizens. In addition to running regular obedience classes, foster parents take their puppies everywhere a service dog might need to go: crowded shopping malls, mass transit, restaurants, offices, public washrooms and so on.
Ms. Ferreira’s current charge is Jay, a Labrador-golden retriever cross who behaves, for now, like a typical five-month-old. Tail whipping back and forth, tongue lolling out of his mouth, he alternates between gnawing loudly on a bone and trying to wriggle into my lap and lick my face when I visit his Oakville foster home.
“He’s just like any other puppy,” Ms. Ferreira says. Except, of course, that Jay has a grander destiny in store. In about seven months, he’ll return to the Lions Foundation facility in Oakville for six to eight months of training to become a seeing-eye, hearing-ear, seizure-response or “special skills” dog guide for a disabled person.
Even after 10 dogs, saying goodbye doesn’t get any easier. [–MORE–]
And we who have or who WILL have service dogs cannot express our gratitude enough!