Stony Brook lady finds calling by elevating puppies

There may be little doubt that Andrea Spencer is a canine individual.

Nico with volunteer coach Andrea Spencer. Photograph from Canine Companions

The Stony Brook resident has rescued Labradors since 2011, fostering and coaching them whereas they have been ready for his or her without end properties. She additionally co-chairs the DogFest Lengthy Island fundraiser at Marjorie R. Put up Group Park in Massapequa and is presently elevating a pet, Nico VI, for Canine Companions.

This can be a nationwide nonprofit group based in 1975 that gives extremely educated help canine to individuals with disabilities freed from cost. Pet raisers present specifically bred puppies a secure residence, take them to obedience courses, serve them a nutritious diet, present socialization alternatives and provides them plenty of love. Every hour spent caring for a Canine Companions pet is significant to its growth as a future service canine.

Spencer’s puppy-raising journey started with a rescued yellow Lab named Ruby, who got here from Louisiana to stay with Spencer and her household. She remembers her fondly.

“She was actually my coronary heart canine,” Spencer stated. “She was actually the canine that introduced me into all of my volunteer work.”

Round 2017, a pal first talked about Canine Companions as a potential service alternative, and the group stored getting into Spencer’s life. She attended a few pet matriculation ceremonies, a form of commencement the place the canine transfer on from residing with their raisers to formal coaching on the Canine Companions middle. It was a turning level for Spencer.

“The commencement was an inspirational, lovely, great factor,” she stated. “It was principally simply life altering for me so far as working with Canine Companions.”

After an extended, blissful life, Ruby handed from lung most cancers in August 2020. Spencer credit this loss because the catalyst for her pet elevating.

“And as soon as we form of settled from that storm, my husband stated, ‘We have at all times thought at the back of our heads, you’d love to do one thing extra for Canine Companions. Why do not we increase a pet in Ruby’s honor?’ I stated, ‘ what, that is such an awesome concept.’”

The household started the method, first with the applying in January 2021, then an in depth interview in March of that yr. As soon as that a part of the method was over, and so they have been accredited, all that was left to do was wait.

That September, Nico arrived in New York, and the Spencers have been now elevating a future service canine for Canine Companions.

Nico is a Lab/golden retriever cross, which is a particular combine Canine Companions breeds for its service canine program. This combine is ​​each personable and really trainable. Spencer stated that there are various issues Nico picks up on with out coaching, and when she does prepare him, he learns rapidly.

“With the Spencer household’s love and steerage, Nico is on his solution to turning into a Canine Companions service canine, and can sometime be matched with an grownup, baby or veteran with a incapacity freed from cost,” stated John Bentzinger, Canine Companions regional public relations and advertising and marketing coordinator, in an e-mail. “Nico is being taught primary instructions and socialization abilities and, in one other seven to 10 months, he’ll be returned to Canine Companions the place he’ll work for six months with our skilled instructors studying over 40 superior instructions which are helpful to an individual with disabilities. Nico will discover ways to open and shut doorways, flip lights on and off, and decide up dropped gadgets to call just some.”

One of many largest challenges is coaching the puppies to manage their pleasure.

“They’re actually bred to like individuals and be with individuals and be with everyone,” Spencer stated. “So that really offers somewhat little bit of a problem as a pet raiser as a result of they actually wish to go see everyone and so they get excited. So, we work on having good manners in public.”

Being in public and being properly socialized is essential to the service canine’s success. The canine must be comfy in a number of areas on quite a lot of surfaces. “We would like him to be utterly targeted in these areas, not simply within the residence the place he is almost all of the time,” Spencer stated.

Some instructions are particular to his coaching as a service canine.

“They’re taught to bark a sequence of three, 4 or 5 occasions, after which quiet is paired with that as a result of they do not need the barking for 20 minutes,” she stated. “They simply need you barking to form of alert somebody.”

There’s a big community of help for individuals who determine to boost puppies for Canine Companions. Not solely are there casual connections with different volunteers, however the nationwide nonprofit offers every raiser with a mentor known as a “pet pal.”

“It is a mentoring program with a raiser who’s raised a minimum of three canine,” Spencer stated. “They hook you up with that individual and all through their puppyhood, you possibly can name them or e-mail them or textual content them.”

In fact, the No. 1 factor Spencer will get requested is how she is going to really feel when Nico leaves her care her and goes on to formal coaching.

“The Lab rescue was like my coaching or my internship,” she stated. “I might have fosters in my home anyplace from one week to 2 months, after which they’d go on to their adoptive properties. And consider me, it wasn’t simple, however you see that you simply’re serving to. I feel having a resident canine in the home helps. I have a look at this not like Nico’s my pet, however he is my job. It’s important to have the best mindset for it.”

She additionally credit her son, Jared, who has Autism, for serving to to forge a reference to Nico’s future recipient.

“I feel having a baby who’s disabled and seeing that this group serves that neighborhood has made that connection for me.”

For Spencer, the choice to boost once more is a given.

“I’ll positively increase once more, as a result of it is simply such an exquisite expertise,” she stated. “I feel as you subsequently increase, regardless that it is totally different, you might have all the primary data, the coaching instruments, the understanding of what they should study. In fact, you are going to have totally different obstacles with every pet, as a result of puppies are like people, they’re all totally different. However sure, I positively suppose we’ll increase once more.”

Her recommendation for individuals contemplating elevating is easy.

“I feel for those who’re contemplating elevating it’s important to have a sure mindset, that you simply’re elevating this pet not for you however for to assist someone,” she stated. “You positively have to have your complete household on board, as a result of it does change into a household affair. You are going to have challenges, however you are going to even have nice successes. There’s a very sturdy community of help proper right here on Lengthy Island. And actually, we have change into a household. We name it the Canine Companion household. And it is one thing that’s so rewarding on so many ranges. And you already know, hopefully extra individuals will take part and participate on this as a result of with out the pet elevating there are not any canine.”

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