Lindsey Davis understood the value of community service at a young age. Growing up, one of the most impactful charitable endeavors her family undertook was raising a puppy for Canine Companions for Independence, the non-profit organization that provides assistance dogs for people with disabilities free of charge.
“Not only was it just plain fun to have this special puppy in our lives,” explains Lindsey, “but it was really fulfilling to understand his potential impact on the life of someone with a disability.” Canine Companions assistance dogs are trained in approximately 40 commands designed to make everyday life easier for people with physical and developmental challenges.
Now, Lindsey, with the help of her husband, Craig, is imparting her passion for helping others on to her own children. “I wanted to keep the volunteer legacy rolling,” says Lindsey, “but I wanted to wait until my son and daughter were old enough to be engaged in all the aspects of puppy raising.” So far, Jordan, age 12, and Taleigh, age 10, seem to be learning a lot from the experience. The family began raising Canine Companions puppy Hemera, a black Labrador/Golden Retriever cross, last fall.
“My children have been more engaged with puppy raising than I could have dreamed!” Lindsey reports. “Both of my kids have presented overviews of Canine Companions to their classes. They have done presentations and demonstrations at other schools, as well. With the help of some great parent volunteers, we even integrated the concept of assistance dogs and Canine Companions into a service learning project.” The kids even built a Canine Companions float for a 4th of July parade.
Outside of school, puppy “Mera”, now 11 months old, has Taleigh and Jordan’s full attention. “The kids work with Mera any chance they get,” says Lindsey. “Taleigh and Jordan attend puppy obedience classes and work hard to expose Mera to different experiences.”
One of the main responsibilities of volunteer puppy raisers is providing age-appropriate socialization opportunities, so puppies are accustomed to all sorts of public environments. When the Davis family is out with Mera, they get asked a lot of questions about her. “The kids spend a lot of time educating the public on assistance dogs,” explains Lindsey.
As much as the family has bonded with Mera, their puppy raising experience has also helped forge new connections with other people. In May, the family travelled to Canine Companions’ Southwest Regional Training Center in Oceanside, California. They had the opportunity to get to know a client of Canine Companions with a spinal cord injury. “He has not let his injury hamper his life,” says Lindsey. “We spent a couple of hours hearing his story and watching demonstrations of the endless skills of his service dog. It enabled us to see Mera’s journey full-circle. We hope that she will be able to graduate as an assistance dog and bring someone’s life to a new level of independence. Just like she has with us, Mera will help connect her human partner to the amazing, lifelong community and family of Canine Companions.”