DOG lovers are being sought by a charity to become ‘puppy parents’.
Canine Partners, a charity which helps people with disabilities to enjoy greater independence through the provision of specially trained dogs, needs volunteers to train and raise puppies.
Christine Louis, 63, of Nutley Crescent, Goring, became a puppy parent in 2010.
The rewarding role involves showing the puppy different life experiences by visiting shops, restaurants, pubs, coffee shops, garden centres, trains, buses and any other places that a disabled person might visit.
A satellite co-ordinator from Canine Partners showed Christine how to train a puppy, mainly through play and reward, and she agreed to take a puppy to weekly training classes at the charity’s southern centre in Heyshott, near Midhurst.
The charity then conducted a check to make sure Christine’s home was suitable and that she understood what being a puppy parent involved.
On a couple of occasions she was invited to ‘work’ one of the puppies during the training classes to get a feel for the training which she described as ‘nerve-wracking at first but very enjoyable’.
Christine has helped to train five puppies, including Viggo, a black Labrador puppy, that she had from eight weeks until seven months old, and Eric, another black Labrador puppy that came to her at seven months and stayed until it went on to develop its skills in advanced training.
Both dogs have been partnered with women in wheelchairs in Cheshire and Suffolk.
She said: “We were invited to attend Viggo’s Partnership Ceremony at the Southern Centre, which is a bit like a graduation ceremony.
“It is great to meet the partner and hear the tear-jerking story of your little puppy’s journey and what a big difference the grown- up dog has made to giving a disabled person their independence.”
Two years ago, Christine’s husband, Philip, retired and joined her as a puppy parent.
She said: “This has worked so well and it is great that we have this joint interest. We both really enjoy the weekly training classes.
“They can be hard work but we have lots of laughs along the way.
“We have made lots of friends and the help and support of the trainers and other puppy parents is invaluable.”
In between being a puppy parent, she has also done holiday fostering, where a puppy stays with a volunteer while its puppy parents take a holiday. It can be just for a weekend or for two or three weeks.
The couple’s latest puppy is a chocolate Labrador called Olympia, which they have had since November.
“During the past five years I have been involved with Canine Partners, I have learned so much and find it most rewarding.
“With regard to the most frequently asked question of ‘How can you bear to part with them after a year?’ I admit it is upsetting at the time but it also gives me great satisfaction knowing that I have helped in a small way to give a disabled person their independence.”
“This is a great way for us to spread the word about the work we do in training amazing assistance dogs to transform the lives of people with disabilities.”
For more information on puppy parents email heyshott@canine partners.org.uk or visit caninepartners. org.uk/west-sussex-local