Calico, a Canine Companions for Independence puppy.

Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), a national non-profit organization that breeds, trains and places assistance dogs with children and adults with disabilities, is seeking volunteer puppy raisers on Long Island.

From service and hearing dogs to skilled companions, CCI pups nationwide and at the Northeast Regional Center in Farmingdale have a special destiny - to assist a person with a disability in leading a more fulfilling and independent life.

CCI Instructor and Northeast Puppy Program Manager Noa Pesso-Szefler said the puppies - Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and a cross between those two breeds - come from the CCI Breeding Program, which is located at their national headquarters, in Santa Rosa, CA.

"Our pups are born in a person's home (volunteer breeder/caretaker) and remain with them for the first seven weeks, before being sent to the different regions of CCI," she added.

According to CCI, volunteer puppy raisers help pups achieve their full potential by providing lots of love, leadership and socialization.

"Puppy raisers are responsible for laying a good foundation for the puppy's future working role," Pesso-Szefler said. "This involves teaching the puppy manners, house breaking and many commands, as well as acclimating the puppy to different environments, noises and situations. Puppy raisers are also responsible for providing the puppy with appropriate veterinary care and daily exercise. Our puppy raisers receive a lot of support and help from CCI staff, as well as from fellow puppy raisers on Long Island."

Volunteer puppy raisers must have the ability to safely house and care for a puppy from eight weeks of age until the required turn-in date, which is approximately 16-18 months. While it may seem difficult to give up the puppy, Pesso-Szefler says those interested should attend a CCI graduation ceremony and see the grads meet their canine companion.

"Once you see how profoundly the dogs change a person's life, it is worth all the effort and makes turn-in time easier," she added. "Our puppy raisers also get to meet the dog's new partner at graduation, so they get closure with the dog they raised."

Pesso-Szefler said that many of the puppy raisers even end up raising multiple pups.

"Some like to pick up their new CCI puppy the day they return the current one to advanced training, which is fine by us," she added.

Volunteer puppy raisers must be willing and able to devote time each day to oversee the complete care of the puppy: feeding, grooming, socialization, and exercise as recommended by CCI Puppy Program staff.

This involves four major areas of personal and financial responsibility:

• Providing for the care and well-being of a CCI puppy including a safe home environment, food and other supplies required for puppy raising and healthcare - preventative healthcare, spay or neuter at 6 months of age (when requested by the puppy program), and any necessary incidental healthcare requirements.

• Enrollment and participation in CCI or CCI-approved obedience classes for the duration of the project. Volunteer puppy raisers are also required to submit a progress report each month for the duration of the project as well as report behavioral or medical problems to the regional puppy program manager.

• Socialization, which involves systematically exposing the puppy to a variety of environmental and situational experiences. Volunteer puppy raisers agree to follow CCI approved socialization guidelines and handling techniques when working with the CCI puppy.

• Transportation, which may include shipping costs (for puppies flying directly to the puppy raisers) as well as the costs associated with returning the puppy to one of CCI's regional training centers for Advanced Training.

Founded in 1975 in Santa Rosa, CA, the northeast region opened in 1989 and serves 13 states from Maine to Virginia. They pioneered the concept of training dogs to assist people with physical disabilities. To learn more about the program all are invited to attend the latest graduation on Aug. 18 from 2:30 to 4 p.m. at the Melville Marriott. To volunteer, donate or for more information call 1-800-572-BARK, 631-694-6938 or visit Their Northeast Regional office is located at Farmingdale State College Farm Complex on Melville Road_ in Farmingdale. Logo
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