Happiness is a warm puppy and the wonderful feeling of helping others.
For Jody Fox of Orcas Island, that happiness arrived Oct. 6 in the form of a Yellow Lab puppy named Maggie, who joins Jody’s personal dog, 8-year-old Black Lab Gracie.
Jody is fostering the pup for Summit Assistance Dogs, a non-profit that trains and places highly skilled service dogs, at no charge, for people living with disabilities that affect their mobility.
“I know that as a puppy raiser, I’ll make a difference in someone’s life – and my own,” Jody said. “Every day you work with one, you know you are helping to make someone’s life better.”
One of those lucky people who received a life-changing service dog from Summit is Sherry Vinson of Eastsound, who was paired with Luc in April 2010. Sherry has Primary Lateral Sclerosis, a progressive condition that affects her speech and mobility. Luc helps her both at home and out in the community every day.
“I see them in town a lot, and they make me smile,” Jody said. “They are such a great team. I think about how different her life would be if she didn’t have her Summit dog.”
It was through her friendship with Sherry that Jody learned about Summit. She said that even though they are friends, she has no doubt that Luc is Sherry’s best friend.
At Sherry’s invitation, Jody attended a presentation about Summit, where she was deeply moved by a video interview with an inmate at the Monroe Correctional Facility, where Summit has a training partnership. Carefully selected and trained inmates work with older Summit pups for nine-week training sessions. Jody said the video was “a real tear jerker.” In fact, she was so moved, she decided to become a volunteer puppy raiser.
“I think it drove home to me what an impact a special dog can have on someone’s life. I decided I wanted to be part of it.”
Jody’s first Summit puppy was Abby, a Black Lab/Golden Retriever mix she raised for about two months, doing housebreaking, socialization and basic training. She says it’s so satisfying that she wants to do puppy raising indefinitely.
A puppy may stay with a volunteer foster home for a few months to as long as a year or more, depending on various factors. In most cases, older puppies will then go to Monroe for further training with inmates. The final step in the process, which can take up to two years, is advanced training by Summit’s professional trainers before a dog is placed with a waiting applicant.
“I look forward to that great moment when I see one of my dogs grown up and working” Jody said. “As a puppy raiser, I get to love the puppy, set it up to succeed and guide it as it begins its life-changing journey.”
Jody said she would love to see an island network of puppy raisers who can socialize and train their puppies together, have social gatherings and maybe even raise some money for Summit. “It would be wonderful!” she said.
If you are interested in becoming a highly valued Summit puppy raiser like Jody, visit their web site – www.summitdogs.org – and click on volunteer. And now is the time. Summit has seven new puppies – four Black Labs and two Yellow Labs. They were born Oct. 3 to Bella, a released dog adopted by Nancy Ewert of Lopez Island, who agreed to make Bella available to Summit for breeding. You could be a foster home for one of these pups in a couple of months.