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A dog's journey to becoming an assistance dog

By: Stephanie Dumm, News Messenger Reporter
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Before Wuest, the assistance dog, became Noah Sheiring’s new best friend, a lot of volunteer hours were put into her development and training. Breeder dogs and their puppies are taken care of by volunteer caretakers, according to Bonnie McMellon, a development associate for Canine Companions International. Puppies are born at the caretaker’s home and are taken care of until they are eight weeks old by the caretaker. The puppy is then sent to a volunteer puppy raiser, who is responsible for “providing a safe environment” for the puppy for 15 to 18 months The volunteer puppy raiser is financially responsible for food, medical bills and obedience training, according to McMellon. The dog must also be socialized and taught basic commands. After 18 months of raising the puppy, the puppy raiser then turns the puppy back over to Canine Companions for Independence. “They (a puppy raiser) can be someone that has no experience but are open to attend obedience classes,” Mc Mellon said. “You can just have a big heart and decide this is what you want.” The dogs go back to the training facility, receive more training, including obedience and learning 40 commands, and are then placed with their prospective owners. McMellon said there are more than 3,000 volunteers nationwide. To learn more about the program or to become a puppy raiser, go online to cci.org or call 1 (800) 572-BARK. - Stephanie Dumm