Nancy climbed into the playpen with the 8-week-old puppies, rescued by North Shore Animal League America and handpicked by the staff. She was looking for a pup that approached her and wanted attention from her, first and foremost, even more than he or she wanted to play with the other puppies. On this day, she found four rescued pups that just might have what it takes to become service dogs.
“We only pick pups that are clearly people oriented,” says Nancy Teague, Founder and CEO of Putnam Service Dogs, an organization located just north of New York City. “I believe in training mixed-breed rescue dogs for service because there are too many dogs in the world and we cannot find people to take care of all of them. I am trying in a very small way to help with overpopulation and avoid some of the health issues.”
Nancy’s organization has collaborated with Animal League America for the last few years to find rescue puppies that have the potential to work as service dogs. She believes that “rescue dogs are great dogs. A rescue is not any less of a dog than a purebred.” The pups have to undergo extensive training that is not completed until they are about two years old. This entails finding puppy raisers who can bring them to classes, work with them every day, care for, and live with them until then. Putnam Service Dogs provides free service dogs and follow-up support services to people with physical disabilities other than blindness.
Callie, Cary, Chance, and Charlie – the aforementioned 8-week-old pups — are now part of Putnam Service Dog’s Puppies-in-Training Class of 2019. They’ve already been assigned to puppy raisers and started classes. The weekly beginner classes help to hone their obedience to a high level using humane positive reinforcement methods.
One dog, Benji — rescued by Animal League America and part of the Puppies-in-Training Class of 2018 — so far seems to have what it takes to become a service dog. “Benji is now 17 months old and may graduate by the end of this year,” says Nancy. “He is the star of his Puppies-in-Training class. He’s incredibly smart and doing very well. His puppy raiser is also superb in her
ability to train him and she works with him diligently.”
Hopefully, Benji will be breaking ground in the training of rescue pups for service dogs and the four Animal League America pups in the Class of 2019 will follow in his footsteps in two years. These pups, whose lives were saved by Animal League America, will each become part of a special loving bond that will change forever the life of a person needing assistance.