Volunteer spotlight: Kendle & Winter

Kendle, a young woman who lives in Denver and loves animals, became an FSD volunteer puppy raiser in 2020 and an intern in our Communications department in 2021. She shares her story of raising an FSD puppy named Winter below.

My fur-ever and always

I believe that we are all here to fulfill a destiny; some of us are here to be doctors or parents, world travelers, movie stars, average Joes, or even cautionary tales. As a young woman trying to learn and find my place in this increasingly complicated world, I have never been sure of much; however, I have always been certain of one thing: I am destined to be a dog lover. The moment I laid eyes on my first service puppy in training from Freedom Service Dogs, I realized that my love of dogs led me to my next destiny: puppy raising.

I ended my last year of high school and started my first year of college at Metropolitan State University of Denver amidst the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. While the majority of my friends scattered across the country for their own college experiences, my first year was completely remote, which left me feeling lonely, disappointed, and without purpose. That’s when I stumbled upon Freedom Service Dogs and the possibility of puppy raising. From that day forward, my life was changed forever.

The idea of puppy raising was enough to light a fire of excitement inside of me. I had always been involved in dog training and volunteering with animals, but this was different. In November 2020, I was paired with a 6-month-old female chocolate Labrador retriever from FSD named Winter. From the very beginning, Winter and I were attached at the hip. She brought me so much joy, positivity, purpose, and friendship when I needed it most. Winter was the best friend a girl could ask for.

I had never met a dog quite like Winter. She was extremely smart and well mannered. She was a very fast learner and she enjoyed working. Apart from her advanced service dog skills, she was the sweetest, most affectionate, and most loving creature I had ever met. She was so in tune with my emotions that I wondered if she really could understand me. She had a great sense of humor and an unmatchable zest for life. I had never encountered a soul that was so present and just excited to be alive and involved in the moment. Her positive energy rubbed off on me and everyone around her.

Winter went everywhere with me: the gym, doctor appointments, restaurants, and stores. If I was going somewhere, she would come with me. She gave me confidence and helped me relate to others. She also helped me form relationships with other people involved with Freedom Service Dogs.

Winter was a fantastic dog, but puppy raising didn’t come without its challenges. Winter wasn’t much of a chewer, but my dad’s mouth guard fell victim to her antics. We had to overcome a variety of training challenges, and she required a lot of time and patience. Despite these small bumps in the road, I never felt like Winter wasn’t worth it.

Returning Winter to FSD for formal training was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, but I felt way more joy than sadness throughout the process. I would still choose to raise a puppy knowing how the heartbreak feels at the end.

Winter wasn’t just my friend and training partner; she was also a huge influence in my life. Before I got Winter, I was on track to major in journalism, which I changed to public relations and nonprofit studies soon after getting involved with FSD. Puppy raising played a vital part in my personal growth and shone a light on who I want to be. Winter also landed me an internship with FSD, where I got the opportunity to learn and work with amazing people and dogs that made me feel like I have a purpose.

Choosing to raise a puppy for Freedom Service Dogs changed my life in so many positive ways. Winter helped me grow into a stronger, more loving, and more compassionate person. Puppy raising opened so many doors for me and became the thing that kept me going on a daily basis. Although my chapter with Winter has come to an end, I never want to stop writing my story with dogs by my side. Thanks to Freedom Service Dogs and Winter, I now know my forever and always.

FSD urgently needs more volunteer puppy raisers throughout Colorado and nationwide! Learn more or contact Hannah Perruccio at [email protected] to find out how you can get involved in this fun and fulfilling opportunity.

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