Last February, Belmont resident Jane Slavin ventured to Logan Airport to meet an eight-week-old black lab named Hershey. The young puppy was shipped to Boston from California by Canine Companions for Independence, a non-profit organization which breeds, raises and trains assistance dogs for people with disabilities.
Slavin has volunteered to train Hershey which means he will be under her care until August 2019. Since day one, itâs been her responsibility to care for Hershey as if he were her own, including grooming and veterinary care. It is also Slavinâs role to socialize Hershey, teach him basic manners, and train him to learn 30 commands such as sit, down, no, speak, under and turn.
Slavin takes Hershey him to a weekly training session with the New England Dog Training Club and also goes to monthly training sessions which CCI has with other local puppy raisers. Outside the home, he is required to wear a âGentle Leaderâ headcollar which functions like a halter on a horse.
When Hershey is done with his training with Jane, he will be returned to CCI to undergo six to nine months of professional training where he will learn skills such as opening drawers and doors, pulling a wheelchair and turning lights on and off.
When Hersey is done with his professional training, he will either assist an adult with physical disabilities by performing daily tasks; assist someone who is deaf or hard of hearing by alerting them to important sounds; work with clients with special needs in a visitation, education, criminal justice or health care setting; or he will be a skilled companion for a child or adult with physical, cognitive and developmental disabilities.
According to Slavin, Hershey has adjusted well to living with her and her husband, Dan, their two sons, Ben and Jake, and their golden retriever, Payson.
âHershey has been an easy dog to have. He has weaved his way into our family routine and gets along well with our pet dog,â said Slavin.
This is not the first time Slavin has volunteered to raise a puppy for CCI. In 2013, she was a puppy raiser for Galya, a yellow Labrador retriever who stayed with her family until the spring of 2015. Gayla successfully completed her professional training and was placed as a facility dog at Gaylord Specialty Hospital in Connecticut.
âSeeing my first puppy achieve the goal of becoming a working dog was very motivating. Only 40 percent of the puppies in the program make it through the program,â said Slavin.
Slavin said she has long admired service dog work and has the time and energy to raise a puppy for someone else.
âPuppy raisers get asked all of the time how we can give our puppies up. We donât give our puppies up, we give our puppies to. There are many people out there who benefit from having a service dog,â said Slavin.
For more information about Canine Companions for Independence, visit cci.org.