Do you want to be able to give some love to adorable puppies and help veterans at the same time?
K9s for Warriors, a nonprofit based in Ponte Vedra, is looking for “puppy raisers” to help expand its mission of pairing military veterans and service members suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury and/or military sexual trauma with a canine companion.
The Puppy Raisers program places puppies between the ages of 8 weeks to 12 months old in a home environment to ready the youngsters before they can begin more formal training at the K9s for Warriors facility.
“Acceptance is contingent on if we have enough raisers,” said Brianna Bentov, public relations manager for K9s for Warriors. “We do get offered more (puppies) than what we can handle.”
According to Ks for Warriors, puppy raisers must meet the following requirements:
■ Must be at least 18 years old
■ Must live within 50 miles of Camp K9 (114 Camp K9 Road, Ponte Vedra Beach)
■ Must have regular access to a car
■ Must attend monthly obedience classes with K9 trainers
■ Must provide a safe environment for a puppy under 1 year of age
■ Must teach the puppy manners and basic obedience
■ Must provide the puppy with age-appropriate socialization opportunities, such as public outings
■ Must supervise the puppy throughout the day
■ Must agree to return the puppy upon request
Bentov said a lot of the puppies are donated from breeders and are usually between 8 to 12 weeks old. Puppy raisers are asked to keep the puppies until 16 months old, so the raiser may have the puppy for up to 14 months (depending on its age) before going to the K9s for Warriors onsite location for formal training, and eventually, being partnered with a warrior.
Puppy raisers are given a training manual and provided everything needed, including food, leash, crate and veterinary care, to help the puppy prepare for its important, future role.
Bentov said she understands it can be a difficult situation for a puppy raiser knowing the puppy they fell in love with will have to be returned, but the nonprofit tries to make the transition as smooth and welcoming as possible. Puppy raisers are invited to graduations to see their puppy and meet the warrior it’s paired with, as well as recognized at the event for the job they did.
“They understand they’re helping to save a veteran’s life,” Bentov said.
According to Bentov, the number of requests to be a puppy raiser is increasing, and about half of those who apply are approved. But, she said, there are plenty of opportunities — and puppies — available for those who qualify.
“It’s hard to turn puppies away,” she said. “Especially when it’s going to something so important.”
For more information or to fill out an application, visit www.k9sforwarriors.org/puppy-raisers.