“Having dogs at home was so valuable to many of us, lessening the isolation and keeping us more connected with community interested in the work we were doing and offering to help out where possible.”
Our heartfelt thanks and congratulations to our volunteers and staff who rose to the challenge of continuing to raise, socialise and train our pups and dogs throughout the COVID isolation period.
Program Manager – Guide Dog Services, Kim Ryan, said it had been critical to keep up socialisation and training work, and to support the volunteer puppy raisers and boarders to maintain their own and the pups’ general wellbeing.
To do this, the team embraced a range of communications platforms. Online video chat services Zoom and FaceTime replaced face-to-face work including monthly group training sessions, supporting puppy raisers on walks and introducing pups to new experiences around the house, and coffee catch-ups for mentors.
Program staff also created PowerPoint and video learning opportunities for puppy raisers and volunteer recruits; developed a system for regular phone check-ins with puppy raisers and clients; and formed a closed Facebook group which was spectacularly successful in bringing our northern and southern volunteers together to share stories, photos and information.
Mindful that many puppy raisers also had their hands full supporting their children through home schooling, our staff set up fun activities for children to complete with the pups in their care, including backyard scavenger hunts, backyard cafes so pups could continue to learn how to behave in different environments, and puppy bingo based on training tasks.
Kim said she and other staff took extra dogs into their own homes, enabling them to continue training and ensuring we have dogs ready to place with clients. “Aside from that though, having dogs at home was so valuable to many of us, lessening the isolation and keeping us more connected with community interested in the work we were doing and offering to help out where possible,” she said. “It was just great.”