Puppy raiser profile

Meet the volunteer wonder from Down Under

The following is a letter Anna wrote to FSD before returning to Australia in March 2021:

When Anna Maddocks moved from Australia to Colorado in February 2020, she found it difficult to settle into her new life in the USA. Between leaving her corporate job and landing in an unfamiliar country in the middle of a pandemic, Anna found it nearly impossible to meet new people or get involved in anything. Happily, Anna discovered FSD, and she quickly became one of our most enthusiastic volunteer puppy raisers.

I have fallen in love with Freedom Service Dogs.

Arriving from Australia in February 2020, I had a hard time settling into life in the USA. Changing from a corporate lifestyle to a trailing spouse was an unsettling change for me, and then to make it harder, there was a global pandemic. I spent months trying to volunteer with multiple organizations, but no one was taking on new people; it was near impossible to meet people or get involved with anything. I went from a busy, independent lifestyle to what I felt was a meaningless existence.

A colleague of my partner had told me about Freedom Service Dogs, and one day I saw an FSD vehicle passing near Park Meadows Mall, which spurred me into contacting them. I completed all of the onboarding steps as fast as I could and was scheduled for a puppy handling session with a puppy named Benz, along with the opportunity to puppy-sit her over the weekend. I cannot tell you how excited I was! Finally, my timing was right, and Benz was in need of a new puppy raiser.

We attended monthly outings and lessons together, learning everything from general dog grooming and health to how subtle positioning will go on to assist people with disabilities. As puppy raisers, our main focus is to teach basic skills and manners, helping our pups grow into confident dogs with the ability to learn. Basic cues include recall, sit, down, place, kennel, and most importantly, how to loose-leash walk in a heel position by the side of their handler. We worked on dog distractions, greeting adults and children, appropriate chewing and play, plus much more.

Being involved with the puppy-raising community, I also became a volunteer for the nursery team. I was lucky enough to begin teaching the 7- to 12-week-old puppies the basics of primary cues and also went on to assist with socialization of the 4- to 8-week-olds. This included leash practice, wagon rides, and equipment and noise desensitization. Education of these pups starts from the very beginning, and they are set up for success with the help of FSD staff and volunteers.

In November, eight more puppies were placed with raisers and I was pleased to be one of them, taking on a little 8-week-old yellow male Lab, Verde. This meant I got to experience the entire training lifecycle, including potty training, teaching him how to learn, pressure yielding, and so much more.

Puppy raising both Benz and Verde has been an absolute pleasure and a totally rewarding experience. Exposing them to a variety of environments and situations has been beneficial for all of us. Benz accompanied me to restaurants, grocery shopping, hikes, road trips, and even a flight to Minnesota. Helping them grow in confidence with the ability to handle the unknown has been an enjoyable journey and prepared them well for their advanced training with FSD trainers.

Puppy raising made 2020 worth living! I was able to meet people, be a part of something bigger, give back and feel purpose again, as well as having new best friends and sidekicks in my puppies, Benz and Verde. I would highly recommend getting involved with this great organization!

FSD urgently needs more volunteer puppy raisers who live in Colorado! Learn more. If you live outside Colorado, email Hannah Perruccio at [email protected] to find out how you can support this rapidly expanding program.

Contact Erin Conley at econley@freedomservicedogs.org for all media inquiries.