Raising Rogan: local family helps puppy earn his wings
Thursday, Aug 08, 2013 09:33 am
At first glance, Rogan is your average Labrador retriever puppy — wiggly and full of energy.
But as a canine member of Dogs with Wings, an assistance dog society from Edmonton, Rogan is destined for bigger things. He’s on track to provide safety and independence to Albertans in need of assistance.
Rogan arrived in Calgary Aug. 1 to meet his Cochrane-based puppy-raising family — Kris, Jaimie, Clark and Blaise Anton, as well as nine-year-old lab Ellie. The black lab pup will be staying with the family, who are first-time puppy raisers for the organization, for a year.
“Our biggest question was how to raise this puppy — obviously it was going to be different than raising a pet,” said Jaimie.
As part of his training process, Rogan and the Anton family — along with other puppy-raiser families — will be meeting with a local dog trainer to ensure the dogs are reaching the correct milestones. At the moment, Jaimie said much of Rogan’s training is based around learning his name, socializing with people and other dogs and getting on a strict bathroom schedule — as an adult, Rogan will be required to go to the bathroom on command.
The pup, who is about 10 weeks old, is required to be with the family 24 hours a day, seven days a week, said Paula Bildfell, volunteer coordinator with the organization.
“We need someone to be with these puppies all of the time,” she remarked. “Eventually, that’s where the dog will be — by someone’s side always. They have to be able to go everywhere.”
So far, Rogan has accompanied the Antons on trips to the grocery and hardware store, as well as to the library. When donning his blue Dogs with Wings bandana, Rogan is all business, said Jaimie.
But when he’s not, Rogan is just a typical puppy.
“He gets to wrestle, play and chase,” said Jaimie. “He’s really going to be integrated into our family. But it comes to down to being more mindful of the things you introduce to them.”
After a year spent with the Anton family, Rogan will return to Edmonton to train with Dogs with Wings’ certified training staff. For six to eight months, Rogan and the other adult dogs will train daily, as well as have their temperaments, hips and eyes tested. The dogs are assessed to determine which assistance role they are best suited: autism, guide, service or therapy.
The Antons said they’re anticipating the difficulty that will come at the end of the one-year long puppy program. But Kris said that he, Jaimie and their boys (five and seven years old) know that Rogan will be providing a great service to someone who needs the independence.
“He gets to go on to do greater things,” said Jaimie in agreement. “But he gets to be part of our family for a little while.”
Potential puppy raisers can apply for the volunteer program at dogswithwings.ca. The program runs in Calgary, Edmonton, Red Deer, Rocky Mountain House and Grande Prairie.
The organization provides food, harnesses, a crate and vet expenses for the participating families.