New Westminster resident Lynne Radbourne loves dogs so much that she retired early to volunteer her time raising puppies to help people with disabilities.
"I thought, oh this is something I want to do… The only stipulation was because I was going to be the main puppy raiser, I couldn't work," says Radbourne, who volunteers with B.C. and Alberta Guide Dogs. " I went in the next day, gave my notice [and] haven't looked back since."
Volunteering is at least a year-long commitment and training a service dog is intense. Radbourne is now raising Willie, a 10-month-old black lab, who is her third puppy through the program. She attends special classes once a week with Willie and trains her to stop and stay at curbs, ride escalators, take public transit and anything else that will help a person with disabilities.
When the dogs don't have their training vests on, Radbourne says, they're pets. "They're a part of your family," she says.
Be prepared for the separation
Part of raising puppies is having to give them up at the end of the commitment. The inevitable separation is difficult, but Radbourne says it gives her peace of mind that the puppies are being used for a good cause.
"You go in with the mindset that you know you're not going to keep the dog and that you are going to give it up," says Radbourne.
B.C. and Alberta Guide Dogs is in need of volunteers like Radbourne, but is not currently accepting applications from people who want service dogs.
'Get What You Give' is a new feature on The Early Edition that highlights volunteers all around the Lower Mainland making a difference in their communities.