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Metro Detroiters opening homes to raise future assistance dogs

Foster puppy raisers need not have any experience, raise dogs up to 18 months old

Andrea Dube wanted to raise a puppy to be an assistance dog because her mother was given one. But, she couldn't stop at just one.

"I was just going to do one, well now I'm on 11. It is kind of addicting, because you do, you love having the puppies with you, it makes everybody happy," Dube said.

Dube is a foster puppy raiser for Paws With A Cause based out of Wayland, Mich.

"At Paws (With A Cause), we train service dogs for people with any number of physical disabilities; hearing dogs for the hearing impaired/deaf, seizure-response dogs for people with seizures and epilepsy and other disorders and we also train service dogs for families living with autism," said Deb Davis, community outreach manager with Paws With A Cause.

Dube, who is currently raising Queen, an 11-month-old golden retriever, is a nurse who raises the puppies in her free time.

"I always liked dogs, and I always liked puppies and I figured how hard could it be to raise a puppy. It's hard but it's rewarding. When the puppies come how they're brand new babies," said Dube. "It's hard but it's rewarding. When the puppies come how they're brand new babies."

Foster puppy raisers don't need dog-training experience. They must teach basic obedience and attend obedience classes, and they need to bring the puppy to public places at least three times a week.

"She knows most of her commands, she still gets excited when she meets people, you know, she tries to jump up and we're working on that, working on just more self-control," Dube said.

Puppy trainers are not only responsible for teaching the puppy, but also for its needs like food and toys, and care.

"These volunteers are phenomenal people that sign on to love, train and care for a small cute little puppies between the time they are 8 weeks old up to 18 months old," Davis said.

When the puppies are ready, they leave their puppy raiser and go onto "college," where they are given specialized training to determine what their specialty will be as an assistance dog.

"It's tough when you take them to college. There is a lot of tears, there is a lot of sadness, but you know that dog is going to go on to change some else's life," Dube said. "That puppy has been bred to be somebody else's legs, to be their arms, to be their ears. Once you have met a client, you would never think about keeping that puppy, you just can't wait for them to get there and you can't wait to meet them again and see where they're living and see what their life is" Davis said.
Paws With A Cause trains anywhere from 50 to 75 dogs a year and are always in need of volunteers. For more information, go to pawswithacause.org.