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03 February, 2016

Puppy volunteers needed

A Guide Dog in harness walking with its handler on grass near a river

North Avoca's Melissa Holmes has showered love and affection on seven bouncy puppies in training to become Guide Dogs for the first 12 months of their journey.

She is now encouraging fellow Central Coast residents to open their homes to the fantastic experience.

"Raising puppies for Guide Dogs has been so rewarding," she said. "I wanted to find a way to contribute to the community and knowing what I do will enhance the independence and mobility of person who is blind or vision impaired is so wonderful," she said.

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT is urgently seeking volunteers like Mrs Holmes from the Ourimbah, Terrigal, Avoca, Gosford, Erina, Woy Woy and Umina areas to look after Guide Dog puppies for 12-14 months.

It takes almost two years and costs more than $35,000 to breed, raise and train a Guide Dog and Puppy Raisers play a critical part in developing a playful puppy into a responsible Guide Dog.

"We are looking for people that are home most of the time and are interested in putting effort into training and socialising the dog," Guide Dogs NSW/ACT Puppy Raising Manager, Karen Hayter said.

Guide Dogs provide food, veterinary care, flea and tick prevention and the team is on hand to answer any questions and provide guidance.

The Puppy Raiser's role involves toilet training, teaching basic obedience and social skills, daily walks on a lead and introducing the pup to the sights, sounds and smells it is likely to encounter as a working Guide Dog.

"Puppy Raisers need to have a fully-fenced yard, be away from home no more than four hours at a time, have access to a car and attend training days once a month in the local area," Ms Hayter said.

The Puppy Raiser and their pup also regularly visit the Guide Dogs Centre at Glossodia for vet checks and Puppy Pre-School.

Mrs Holmes said she has loved watching her five children grow alongside each puppy. "Labradors have such a beautiful personality and are fantastic in a family environment," she said. "My little guy simply loves playing with the puppies."

The family also have their own dog, a former Guide Dog that they Puppy Raised who developed health problems, and was offered back to the family as a pet. Mrs Holmes said the family jumped at the opportunity to welcome her back.

Six of the puppies Mrs Holmes has raised have gone on to graduate as Guide Dogs, while another became part of the Pets as Therapy program. Mrs Holmes said she was hopeful, her current pup, Bart, would also graduate.

At 12 months of age, Bart will soon return to the Guide Dogs Centre as a confident, well-mannered, young adult dog to undertake formal training and be assessed for his suitability as a Guide Dog.

Every day in Australia, 28 people are diagnosed with vision loss that cannot be corrected, including nine who will become blind. These figures will rise by 20 per cent in the next four years, so there is a huge demand for Guide Dogs NSW/ACT's free services.

If you would like to become a Puppy Raiser for Guide Dogs NSW/ACT please apply online at or call the Guide Dogs Centre at Glossodia on 02 4579 7555.