An incurable case of puppy love
After two years volunteering at FSD as a dog walker and weekend foster, Alex Holcomb has found a new purpose and passion: puppies!
Alex originally discovered Freedom Service Dogs online after her beagle passed away and she was considering adopting a dog. While she ultimately decided she wasn’t ready for a new fur baby, the idea of volunteering with dogs and helping FSD pursue its mission resonated with her.
Says Alex, “I love the fact that the more I learn at FSD, the more I get to help with expanding programs! When I first began, there was only one dog I could walk and a few I could take to the play yards, so that’s what I did—and I loved it. As time has passed and I’ve gained more experience, I’m now able to walk and do enrichment activities with all the dogs and participate in weekend fostering.”
With FSD acquiring more puppies and starting a small-scale breeding program, the need has arisen for more puppy-focused volunteers, both to help raise and train puppies in their home, and to work with the puppies during their time at FSD. Alex took on the latter role, saying, “Over the last four months as FSD’s puppy enrichment program has expanded, I’ve had the privilege of being a small part of the growth of this new and significant part of FSD’s future.” When puppies are first brought to FSD, she is responsible for interacting with them, observing them, and working with them on simple enrichment activities for about a month before they move on to the prison puppy program (part of Colorado’s Prison Trained K-9 Companion Program). When the puppies return from prison after learning basic obedience and house manners, Alex assists with behavior evaluation outings before they go home with their volunteer puppy raisers for continued training and socialization.
When asked what she likes most about volunteering at FSD, Alex replies with an enthusiastic, “Everything! What truly makes it rewarding is the sense of community and common goals of volunteers and staff. The kennel technicians on staff are so welcoming and always keep me informed of progress with puppies and dogs, the trainers give me invaluable advice and direction, and I learn something new from a fellow volunteer every time I’m at FSD. Whenever I see a client-dog team, it makes me proud and humbled to be part of such an amazing organization. And if all that were not enough, the amount of heavenly puppy breath keeps me coming back for more!”
Alex admits she is fortunate in having an employer—Nordstrom—that supports volunteerism. The company not only allows her to take time off to volunteer and foster adult dogs in training on weekends, but they also match her volunteer hours with a monetary donation that goes directly to FSD.
For anyone considering becoming an FSD volunteer, Alex has one piece of advice: “Please do it! It may be the most gratifying thing you do in the new year. There are many ways to volunteer, and the scheduling for volunteer shifts is effortless and completely up to the individual. And for those who have a bit more time to volunteer, please consider being a puppy raiser. It’s a great opportunity to help mold a future service dog!”
Freedom Service Dogs is currently in need of Denver-area volunteer puppy raisers who will receive special training and ongoing support, as well as food and supplies for their puppies, who have been previously house trained and crate trained. Learn more or contact Puppy Program Coordinator David Neff at 303-922-6231 x211 or [email protected]