Volunteer Puppy Raisers play a vital role in the development of Fidelco guide dogs. Puppy Raisers welcome 8-week-old puppies into their homes and spend over a year providing loving care, early training, and socialization. Puppy Raiser families expose the pups to diverse experiences and surroundings, so that when the pups are 16 to 18 months old, they are ready for formal training on their path to becoming guide dog partners for people who are blind.
Adele and Ed Banas have a 44-year history of dedicated involvement with Fidelco. In 1977, the Banas family was interested in getting a German Shepherd Dog as a pet. They had read about Fidelco Co-Founder Roberta Kaman’s innovative and respected training techniques and thought a Fidelco German Shepherd would be a good fit for their family. Adele, Ed, and their son picked up their first German Shepherd Dog from Robbie and Charlie Kaman.
At that time, the Kamans were breeding German Shepherds in their home kennel, placing them with Puppy Raisers, and donating them to other guide dog schools for training. Adele remembers the Kamans’ kitchen served as the “pup house” before Fidelco’s breeding and training facility was built in Bloomfield.
Since 2004, Adele and Ed have been raising puppies for Fidelco; and they have also adopted Fidelco career-change dogs as pets. “Robbie Kaman introduced us to the Volunteer Puppy Raiser program. She described the time commitment, the weekly classes, and Fidelco’s philosophy and culture of community. We knew immediately it was something we wanted to be a part of. Ed and I are both teachers (now retired), and we love German Shepherd Dogs. As soon as we retired, we became Volunteer Puppy Raisers— and we’re still at it, eleven dogs later.”
Adele and Ed have raised Fidelco German Shepherd puppies “Joy,” “Lara,” “Ivy,” “Iggy,” “Colin,” “Spenser,” “Gaia,” “Feebee,” “Wookie,” and “Vader.” They are currently raising “Nara.” Adele says, “Each pup has a different personality and different quirks. We’ve developed a lot of patience.”
When Adele and Ed take puppies out into local neighborhoods, stores, parks, and other settings, they experience a deep sense of community. “Going out and about with the pups once they have earned their red vests has given us an opportunity to meet a variety of people. We’ve even convinced some to become Puppy Raisers! We have made lifelong friends with other Puppy Raiser families, trainers, and many people we’ve met in the community.”
“The most rewarding part of being a Puppy Raiser for us is to watch a couch-chewing, counter-surfing, yipping puppy grow into a self-assured and focused working dog,” Adele shares. “The icing on the cake has been when we hear from Fidelco clients who have received guide dogs who were puppies we raised. Words can’t describe how wonderful it’s been to share stories, compare notes, and hear how serious the dogs are about their work.”
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