After moving to Colorado from Michigan, Kim Pendergast was looking for a way to combine her love of animals with giving back to her new community when she became aware of Freedom Service Dogs. Kim, her husband, and their two children began fostering FSD dogs in training on weekends to give them a break from the kennels. Says Kim, “As a foster volunteer, I really enjoyed the community and support at FSD, and I learned a lot from taking various classes and working with the staff and trainers. After learning FSD needed puppy raisers, we decided it would be a good fit and a good time for us to raise a puppy, and it has been a great decision.”
Kim and her family are raising their first service dog hopeful, a bubbly black Lab named Midge who came to their home at 6½ months old. Like all dogs in our puppy-raising program, Midge had previously been crate and house trained, and learned basic obedience cues like sit, stay, and loose-leash walking. During Midge’s six months as a foster, Kim will continue her obedience training and socialization, bring Midge to FSD once a month for evaluation, and join other puppy raisers for monthly socialization outings.
As a volunteer puppy raiser, Kim is receiving specialized training, ongoing support, and constant guidance from FSD staff and fellow puppy raisers, as well as free dog food and supplies for Midge. “FSD is committed to providing the resources and training to help ensure the best outcome for the puppy and the puppy raiser,” she says.
While Kim has primary responsibility for raising Midge, everyone in the family has fallen in love with their FSD pup and is committed to Midge’s training. “It’s been wonderful to have a puppy in the house, and Midge has brought a new level of energy, joy, love, and mischief to our home, like only a puppy could!” says Kim. “Each day is filled with joy watching her be a puppy as she conquers her fears and becomes more confident. Our daughter has invented different games to play with Midge to reinforce her training cues and has attended training sessions with us. We all enjoy taking Midge on family outings, introducing her to the world, and sharing FSD’s mission and our puppy-raising experience with others in the community.”
Kim says the biggest challenge in raising Midge is ensuring that she gets the mental and physical stimulation she requires, as well as constant reinforcement of her training regimen. “We do our very best to set her up for success each day, but we also have to be disciplined not to spoil her, as she is so sweet and cute!”
Adds Kim, “For me, being a Freedom Service Dog puppy raiser is an honor and responsibility that comes with lots of pure puppy love and joy! It’s a wonderful opportunity to continue Midge’s training and challenge myself to help ensure she is the best she can be. And it’s rewarding to know that I will play a part in helping her unleash her potential so she can one day change someone’s life and make a difference like no one but a Freedom Service Dog can.”
Kim would encourage anyone thinking of becoming a puppy raiser to contact FSD and attend a puppy class or outing, as well as a one of the June or December graduation ceremonies. “We are constantly asked as a family how we are going to handle it when we are done fostering Midge,” says Kim. “Attending a graduation ceremony was inspiring for our family, and it reinforced how important the work we are doing is in helping FSD provide dogs that enhance people’s lives. I know tears will be shed when we our foster time with Midge is over, but they will primarily be tears of pride and joy knowing the great work she will be off to do!”
Freedom Service Dogs needs Denver-area volunteer puppy raisers who will receive special training, ongoing support, and supplies for their puppies. Learn more or contact Puppy Program Coordinator David Neff at 303-922-6231 x212 or [email protected].