July 25th, 2021
3 min read

Hooked on Raising: The Motivation Behind Raising Numerous Puppies

Puppy raisers for Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) often volunteer to raise more than one puppy; The gratification from contributing to an amazing organization and the unique responsibilities involved keep many volunteers dedicated to the program. Brooke Johnson, a puppy raiser for the College Station club in College Station, TX, feels exactly that.

Brooke began her puppy raising journey 3 years ago as a sophomore at James Madison High School. Coincidentally, her animal science teacher of the Agricultural Magnet Program was also the leader of the James Madison GDB puppy club, which prompted her to join the group. “My sister and I decided it would be a great way to serve that fit the things we love such as animals,” expressed Brooke.

Banner, a male Golden Retriever, sitting down in front of greenery. He is wearing his green puppy jacket.

Like any raiser, Brooke was nervous about raising her first puppy, Natsumi, a female golden retriever/lab cross. Although all puppy raisers go through initial seminars to learn important commands and rules from their club leaders and peers before raising, the do’s and don’ts can be difficult to navigate at first. Luckily, the James Madison Club is a big community with incredible leaders who supported any challenges that arose. In addition, “Natsumi was a great first puppy to have, and there were no challenges out of the ordinary,” which helped Brooke improve her raising techniques. Eventually, Natsumi was paired with a handler and graduated as a wonderful guide. “Of course, we missed her, but that all went out the window the first time we talked to her new handler. Actually seeing her working as a guide filled us with so much pride and love.” Hearing positive comments about Natsumi from her handler showed Brooke the importance this organization holds to individuals who are blind or visually impaired, and her new passion for puppy raising and GDB as a whole convinced her to continue raising.

Agustin, a male Labrador and Golden Retriever cross, laying down on grass.

Since then, Brooke has raised two more puppies and is currently raising her fourth. Her second puppy, Mara (a golden retriever/lab cross), was career changed and is now Brooke’s brother’s beloved pet. Her third puppy, Banner (a golden retriever), became a breeder for GDB. After moving to the College Station Puppy Raisers, she is now raising Agustin. “I haven't had him very long, but he is turning out to be a sweet and smart boy,” Brooke comments. One factor that has contributed to Brooke’s motivation to keep raising is the unique journey she has had with each puppy. “Dogs are like people; they are each so unique in personalities. For example, Mara was such a firecracker and fun to train with. Then I had Banner, the most potato-like cuddly puppy, so different from Mara! With each puppy I have gained new skills as a puppy raiser.” Of course, every puppy has their strengths and weaknesses, but learning to adjust to each dog’s tendencies is a reason why there’s no dull moment in puppy raising.

It’s impossible to choose a favorite memory with pups because there are so many, but one that defined Brooke’s love for raising was Natsumi’s graduation, as well as a call she received from her CFR (Community Field Representative) about how proud she was of Banner and Brooke. “Banner was such a special boy, and probably the hardest to part with, so hearing that success helped me to let go and to be proud of him in his next chapter.” Yet, the most rewarding moments for Brooke are when the puppies finally perform a correction action during training. Seeing the commands click in their head and make a good decision is a proud accomplishment for any raiser.

“Puppy raising is special because you have the opportunity to serve in a long-term way that is bigger than yourself,” says Brooke. Giving up a puppy at the end of puppy raising can be sad, but “puppy raisers are essentially volunteering for their hearts to be broken; once the dog succeeds and becomes a guide, we couldn’t be prouder.” Brooke plans to continue raising puppies while in college, and perhaps even after completing her undergraduate education. But, “right now, I am just focusing on Agustin and his journey!”

Want to write articles like this?

Consider joining the team!