“I’d just love to socialise a puppy, but I don’t think I could say goodbye” is one of the most frequent things people say to our puppy socialisers. So why do so many of our puppy socialisers look after not just one pup, but dozens? Volunteer Helen shares her experience of preparing puppies to be life-changing assistance dogs…
Preparing puppies to be life-changing assistance dogs
Helen has socialised five puppies for Dogs for Good including Digby, ITV This Morning’s Pup with a Purpose. She knows that saying goodbye isn’t easy, but she says it’s not as bad as you might think.
“From the moment you get a new puppy, you know that you’re preparing them for someone else. Of course you love and care for them hugely, but I always keep in the back of my mind that I’m helping this little puppy become a life-changing dog for a person that really needs him.
“That’s not to say that when it’s time for the puppy to start his or her training then we don’t get a bit sad, but we have strategies in place to help make it easier. We usually know the date that they’ll be coming in for training a few months ahead. It gives us the chance as a family to start mentally preparing ourselves for the fact that the puppy will be leaving us.
Enjoying the time you have with the puppy
“For my kids, having pups come and go has all been part of their growing up. They seem to just accept the fact that we have a puppy and then say goodbye. They’re also really proud of what we do – I hear them talk to friends on the way to school, about how they help with the puppy and what they will go on to do as an assistance dog. I think they’ve also learnt to be quite mindful about looking after the pups – they keep in the moment with the pup and enjoy the time they have with them. It’s lovely to see.
“From a practical point of view, we usually try to have a cross-over between our old puppy and our new puppy. So a few weeks ago, ahead of Digby going, Dillon came to live with us. It may seem like two would be twice the work, but actually it helps the new pup to settle and for us, it also means the house doesn’t seem quite so empty when the older pup goes. We also have our own dog who we know isn’t going anywhere and I think that helps us too.
“I look forward to getting the next pup, each one is different and I know we’ll have lots of adventures together. I see it as a bit of a project, I love seeing what makes them tick and how they develop their personalities. So I guess from my point of view, taking on each one is a new challenge and I start to look forward to it.
The perfect way to say goodbye
“One thing that has become a bit of a family tradition is how we say good-bye to our pups. On their final weekend with us, we make a trip to the beach. The dogs have a great time enjoying the sea and running across the sand, and we have a lovely day as a family altogether. It feels the perfect way to say good-bye.
“The icing on the cake though is seeing your pup matched to their new partner and hearing how they are making a difference. It’s been great to see how Copper, the last dog we socialised is making a difference. His partner regularly emails me and sends me pictures of how he’s doing. She’s so happy and he’s made such a difference to her life, it makes it all worthwhile!
“So would I recommend it to anyone? Absolutely, I think if you love dogs and have some time to give then I’d definitely recommend it. Without doubt it’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done and I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved as a family. While it’s hard to say goodbye, the positives we’ve gained far outweigh anything else.”