The Warrior Canine Connection, which is based in Boyds, is in need of volunteers to become “Puppy Parents” to the next generation of dogs to be trained as service animals for veterans.
The program which recently opened its WCC Healing Quarters in Boyds enlists recovering warriors in a therapeutic mission of learning to train service dogs for their fellow veterans. However, before the dogs can begin their training in earnest, they need to get through puppyhood. WCC needs volunteers willing to help raise and train those puppies.
“Puppy Parents are always in demand at Warrior Canine Connection,” said Beth Bourgeois with WCC. “We are always in need of volunteers who are passionate about providing much-needed care and support for our future service dogs. However, this year we are planning to have additional litters to meet the growing need for service dogs. We also have a breeding cooperative, whereby our amazing partner service dog organizations provide us with additional puppies who we care for and train to become service dogs.”
The organization will host a Puppy Parent Informational Meeting on July 11 where people interested in becoming Puppy Parents can meet the program director to can learn more, ask questions and find if the role is right for them, said Bourgeois.
“A Puppy Parent is a volunteer who does the important work of caring for and raising WCC puppies as they undergo their training to become service dogs,” she said. “Puppy Parents begin working with puppies from the age of 8-12 weeks for up to two years. Previous volunteers will tell you that it’s very rewarding work knowing that these puppies will one day provide much-needed support to our nation’s heroes.”
She said the requirements for being a Puppy Parent could be summed up in three words. “Must Love Dogs. Puppy Parents must be able to provide puppies with consistency, supervision, socialization and a lot of love.” Puppy Parents must also be able to bring their puppy to weekly classes at the WCC Healing Quarters in on Schaeffer Road in Boyds.
Beyond Puppy Parents, WCC is also looking for Puppy Sitters. According to Bourgeois, “Puppy Sitters go through puppy training, they attend the same classes as Puppy Parents, and take care of our service dogs in training during times when the dogs cannot accompany their Puppy Parent, such as business travel or family emergencies. We look for the same characteristics in Puppy Sitters that we do for Puppy Parents — consistency, supervision, socialization and a lot of love. It is also an excellent way to find out if the Puppy Sitter wants to become a Puppy Parent.”
Puppy Parents are essentially foster parents for the puppies until the dogs are trained and paired with the warrior they will serve. “A lot of people ask if it’s hard saying ‘bye’ to a dog at the end of their training,” said Bourgeois. “Most puppy parents will tell you that while it’s emotional, they find joy in knowing that the dog will go on to help a veteran in need. Several Puppy Parents have said that while saying goodbye is a hardship, they recognize that it pales in comparison to the sacrifices our veterans have made.”
Through Warrior Canine Connection’s Mission Based Trauma Recovery model, one dog can impact up to 60 veterans during the course of its training. WCC has been working with wounded Warriors in a clinically-based setting to train service dogs for their fellow Veterans since 2011.
The Healing Quarters on 80-acres of Maryland State Park land provides WCC with a comprehensive facility where it can fulfill its mission to leverage the human-canine bond to help alleviate symptoms of post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury in wounded warriors.
For more information on becoming a Puppy Parent visit the organization’s website.
File Photos by Germantown Pulse