IM this article to a friend!

April 15, 2004

Love Dogs? Become A Volunteer Puppy Raiser For Dogs For The Deaf

From: - Grants Pass,OR,United States - Apr 15, 2004

By Joan Jones

Staff Writer /

Central Point, Oregon - In the past 25 years, Dogs for the Deaf has rescued and placed over 2,500 dogs in homes as hearing dogs or career change dogs. If you love dogs and have a desire to help others, Dogs for the Deaf, located in Central Point, is looking for a few dedicated volunteers to help raise puppies for their program.

"We tell people, it's like having a foster child or an exchange student," said Debra Berendsen, puppy coordinator for Dogs for the Deaf. "Although it's not their dog, it's something to give back to society."

Dogs for the Deaf chooses small breed dogs between 10 and 35 pounds at their adult weight. These can be mixed breed or purebred. Some are rescued from animal shelters and humane societies, while others might be donated to the program by owners. Some shelters are very good about calling when they have a dog that might work, Berendsen said.

The first step in the process of becoming a puppy raiser is to fill out an application. Applicants must have a fenced yard and no toddlers in the home. Raising the puppy can be done by individuals or as a family project. Applicants must also live in Southern Oregon.

Responsibilities include teaching the puppy house manners and basic obedience but, said Berendsen, "The main thing is socializing."

Puppies in training go everyplace that trainers go, whether it's to the bank, the grocery store or to school. Puppies become part of the raiser's daily life so they learn to be comfortable in all kinds of social situations.

Puppies wearing the Dog in Training vest are usually welcomed anyplace people go. They also have an orange collar and leash, which is the legal sign they are a hearing dog. An ID card is also issued to trainers in case a store or restaurant manager requires proof that the puppy is in training.

Restaurants are the most likely place to challenge a puppy coming into their establishment, Berendsen said.

Puppy classes are held once a month for those in the program and staff from Dogs for the Deaf will come to volunteers' homes and help them if need be.

"We'll go to the home or the Mall or wherever to try and help them work through whatever problems they are having," Berendsen said.

The puppies stay with volunteers until they are a year to 15 months old, then they return to the Dogs for the Deaf facility in Central Point for four to six months of additional training. During this time, they can still stay with their puppy raiser family or in the kennels.

While at the facility, the dogs become part of a large extended family of staff and volunteers who walk them and play with them. Training includes basic to advanced obedience and learning to identify seven sounds:
• Telephone ringing
• Alarm
• doorbell
• knocking at the door
• Smoke/fire alarm
• oven timer
• name call or a baby crying if there is a baby in the home

Dogs learn to pick up other sounds of importance to their hearing impaired owners as well, like toasters, popcorn popping and washers and dryers.

Bringing their owner to the source of the sound is a fun thing, Berendsen said, because they receive treats and affection.

Owning one of these dogs gives independence and security to a hearing impaired person. When out in public, the dog will help identify their owner as impaired person so people are better able to communicate with them. While these dogs aren't trained to alert owners to unusual sounds while out in public, such as police sirens, owners can become more aware of their environment by watching their dog and reacting to whatever the dog reacts to.

Once their training is complete, dogs are flown to applicants all over the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada. To obtain a dog from Dogs for the Deaf, applicants must have a current audiogram and be screened. A volunteer in their area will also interview them.

New owners often send pictures and updates back to the families who once raised their puppy.

Some dogs are found to be unsuitable for the program for one reason or another. These are known as "career change" dogs. If their puppy trainers want them back, they can be adopted by them. If not, there is a waiting list of others who want to adopt dogs from the program.

Although there are some regional groups back East which train dogs for the hearing impaired, Dogs for the Deaf in Central Point is the oldest such facility in the United States. The Dogs for the Deaf program is a non-profit, run totally on donations from individuals and organizations. With the exception of a $25 nonrefundable fee, the dog is free to applicants.

Volunteers are always needed for help in the office or around the US to interview applicants. Foster families are also needed for dogs that might find kennel life too stressful during training.

Donations of money or items are always appreciated, Berendsen said. Some things they always need are blankets, Cheese Whiz for treats and practical items like batteries.

The Dogs for the Deaf facility is located at 10175 Wheeler Road in Central Point. Tours are available May through September at 10 am, 11 am, 1 pm and 2 pm, Monday through Friday. Winter tours are at 10 am and 2 pm, Monday through Friday. To arrange a tour or for more information call 541-826-9220 or visit their website at

©2004 All rights reserved