National Volunteer Week

Meet WingoNational Volunteer Week is being celebrated from April 10-16th this year.

What a great time to reflect and to take action! Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best, “Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve…You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

Eleven years ago, our dog died, leaving a big impact on our family. My children were young and the whole family was devastated. Concurrently, I was the Principal of Winter Park High School. I had developed a close friendship with a parent who was a volunteer puppy raiser for Canine Companions for Independence.

Through encouragement from my friend, my family and I visited Canine Companions to learn more about the organization.

As they say, the rest is history, for we have now raised seven puppies for Canine Companions with the hope they would be placed with people of need.

Wingo 4As a volunteer puppy raiser, we receive our puppy at eight weeks of age and we train him or her to be obedient and social until the age of 18 months. At that time, we return the puppy to Canine Companions for advanced training. Canine Companions’ certified trainers train assistance dogs to master more than 40 specialized commands. Depending on the skills mastered, a dog is placed as a Service Dog, Skilled Companion, Hearing Dog, or Facility Dog.

All Canine Companions’ dogs and services are provided free of charge to recipients, which differentiates them from other organizations and is why this organization is so appealing to us. Money is not an expectation to receive a trained dog, which opens doors for those with needs.

The number one comment I hear when I am out in public with our dog is: “I could never give back the dog for I would be too attached.” It is true, when we turn in our puppy for advanced training, it is extremely tough; however, it is extremely rewarding if your dog gets placed with a recipient six months later. Only half of the dogs get placed, so if your puppy makes it, you have tremendous pride in the positive impact your dog is making on the lives of others. By the way, if your puppy is not placed, you can get him or her back or the puppy is adopted out to a loving family. We have two dogs at home who did not make it and we get to enjoy them every day!

So back to the Martin Luther King, Jr. quote.

We are not dog trainers, however, we have hearts full of love for those in need. I challenge you to find your passion and to take action to serve. Believe me, my family and I get more out of raising puppies to support Canine Companions for Independence than words can describe!

Post by: Dr. Bill Gordon, Former FLVS Chief Operations Officer

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