Black Labrador Zara is nearly 11 months into her Mobility Dog training, so we asked her puppy raiser Greta, how this incredibly clever future life-changer is getting on.
How long will you have Zara for?
She came to us when she was about 10 or 11 weeks old from Assistance Dogs Australia. We have her until she is just over one when she moves on to the next level of training.
What is her personality like?
She is perpetually cheerful! She is always giving, fun, positive and wonderful to have around. She has a lot of maturing to do, but at the core she is so positive which then extends to the whole family. My daughter who is 11, is proud of having a Mobility Dog puppy and is always keen to show off what she can do. Knowing that she is going to go and help people does really help my daughter with the fact that Zara will be moving on and the transition for all of us around that.
Do you have a funniest moment?
There are two that spring to mind! One is back when we hadn’t had her that long and I had to leave her in the office when she was quite small as I had to go to a meeting I couldn’t take her to. I came back and found her lying in the middle of a pile of ‘snow’. She had found a colleague’s research analysis paper and shredded it. It took over two hours to sticky tape every piece of paper back together again!
A very Zara habit are these great groans that sound like a cow. They just suddenly appear out of nowhere and take you quite by surprise. Often her timing is perfect, and she’ll be lying quietly under the table during a meeting and everyone will have forgotten she is there, then she’ll let out this great moo from under the table. One day she did it when we hadn’t had her very long and I was in a packed lecture theatre listening to the Vice Chancellor of the University speak when she let out this great big groan and the whole place erupted!
What is the hardest part about being a puppy raiser?
There isn’t really a worst part to having a puppy. Obviously handing them over is heart breaking but it definitely doesn’t overshadow everything else you have with them. It is such a privilege to be a part of these dog’s lives. You miss them but you hear about how they are getting on once they have left you which helps hugely.
Training in amongst the busy lives we all have can be quite a challenge as dogs need time and Mobility Dog puppies are no exception. We try to do the group puppy walks as often as we can, but they often fall at times when I am at work. It is sometimes hard to get the balance right. Often it is incidental training. I’m running from work, to school, to after-school activities and it can be hard to find the appropriate amount of time to give her the attention she needs.
It is beginning to feel now like it is the right time for her to move on as she needs more input than she is getting from me, although she doesn’t seem to mind! She will respond so well to the next level of training, and I can’t wait to see how she will get on. She needs more to do and to have her world expanded a bit more. Knowing this helps us with the transition too.
What does she do really well?
My daughter takes great delight in getting Zara to open the cupboard doors for her in the morning so she can help get her things ready for her breakfast.
Would you do it again?
We would do it again in a heartbeat. It’s fun and it works well for our family. In fact, we originally thought we’d do puppy raising first so that when we got our own dog we’d know what to do. But now we’ve decided not to get our own dog and stick with the puppy raising. Each puppy is so different, it’s really fun to see them grow and flourish into their different personalities. We’re keen to continue to support Mobility Dogs in this way and it works really well for us.