Puppy Raiser Profile: Ian

Ian and his family have been involved in Puppy Raising for Guide Dogs Tasmania since 2010, when they welcomed boisterous eight-week-old Labrador, Pedro, into their life.

Over the next 18 months, the Hays prepared the little black pup for his formal training as a Guide Dog. They taught him basic obedience, and socialised him in a wide range of different environments and situations.

“There’s no single reason why we decided to puppy raise, but collectively, we hoped that we were going to do something of significant benefit for someone else,” Ian said.

There was, however, one unique reason for the Hays decision to apply to become Puppy Raisers. Their son John lives with a disability which limits his communication, and Ian and his wife, Fiona, were hopeful that having a dog around would encourage him to speak more. They didn’t want to commit to a pet dog, in case it didn’t work out in the longer term. What happened between them was something quite special, and unexpected.

“In addition to some spoken commands, John started using hand signals with Pedro – things like ‘sit’, ‘stay’ and down’. And Pedro would respond,” Ian said.

There was a strong bond between John and Pedro; a bond that continues to this day. Only two months into his formal training, Pedro was withdrawn due to an ongoing skin condition, and the Hays were asked if they would like to adopt him as a family pet. The decision wasn’t as easy as you might think.

“The motivation is really to produce a Guide Dog, so we were disappointed when Pedro wasn’t successful. But the unexpected result is that we have a wonderful pet dog that is truly part of the family.”

Then along came Jerry, followed by Benji!

After Pedro’s career change, the Hays were still motivated to raise another Guide Dog Pup. In April 2015, another black Lab called Jerry (currently in formal training) entered the scene, followed by their current pup Benji in 2016, now ten months old. So what made them want to do it again, and again?

A young man, John, is sitting on a chair, looking down at a small, black Labrador puppy that is sitting on his lap. The puppy has its tongue out and is looking at the camera. “Besides hoping to see one of our pups out helping someone who is vision impaired, its been a very rewarding experience,” Ian said. “At the end of the day, the pups are a lovely companion to have around the house.”

So where to from here?

Once Benji has flown the coop, the Hays hope to continue being involved with Puppy Raising. The support received from staff throughout the whole process, and the cohort of people they’ve met along the way, has made the experience far easier and more enjoyable than they’d first imagined.

“We’ve become good friends with other Puppy Raisers and met people we otherwise wouldn’t have, all because of the pups. They’re a great barrier breaker, giving people a reason to enter into conversation.”

So if you’ve been unsure about taking the first step to becoming a Puppy Raiser, because you thought it was just too hard, why not think about taking the glass half full approach? Just like the Hays, you might end up experiencing a multitude of benefits you never imagined.

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