Helping puppies to help others
GETTING a dog is often born out of pleas from children, followed by a shaky promise from parents that they ‘won’t be cleaning up after it’.
Raising and caring for a guide dog, however, comes from a dedication to volunteer work and a hope to make someone else’s life a little bit easier.
Melissa Haley and her husband Sean are volunteer puppy raisers, having brought up five guide dogs in the past five years.
Mrs Haley said the couple’s passion for raising the puppies came from a realisation that help was needed.
“My husband’s father was having vision issues and we met others in a similar position at the Vision Australia office in Ballarat,” she said. “We knew then that we wanted to help make a difference.”
The Haley’s are currently raising an 11-month-old golden Labrador named Ellie, who is a guide dog in training.
Guide dog puppies are given to carers at about eight weeks of age and are returned to Guide Dogs Victoria when they reach about 14-16 months.
Mrs Haley described the role of training the pups as very exciting and engaging.
“We teach the pups obedience, socialisation, calmness, how to walk in a straight line without distraction, how to handle crowds, shopping centres, traffic, small children and things like that,” she said. “Obviously our main aim is to hopefully achieve a happy, confident and calm pup.”
After the puppy is returned to GDV for further training, a dedicated team will then shower the canine with a week of love and affection, as to help them transition to their new environment.
Saying goodbye to the puppies is always an emotional experience, said Mrs Haley.
“It’s a bit tentative for the first few times but at the end of the day, although it’s sad to say goodbye, it’s equally exciting to say hello to a new puppy,” she said. “Saying goodbye reminds you that the dog is going on to become an important part of someone’s life and really help them out.”