Q&A with Fidelco’s Manager of Puppy Development, Liz DiPace

Q: What is your role at Fidelco and when did you first become involved with the organization?

A: As the Manager of Puppy Development, I lead a team responsible for puppies from birth until they return to Fidelco for formal training after living with their Volunteer Puppy Raiser families.

Liz taking a selfie while holding Rebel, a 8-week-old pup in her hand.
Liz and “Rebel”

I became involved with Fidelco at 13 years old when I was in 9th grade while raising my first puppy, “Simba.” I always wanted a dog and after meeting a puppy being raised by someone in my church, I was able to talk to my parents into allowing me to raise a puppy. I’ve been involved in several different parts of the organization, including puppy raising, kennel training, and placements.

Q: What are some of the biggest challenges you encounter in your work?

A: The challenges of the position are also some of the best parts of my job- from whelping a litter with a new mom to helping a Volunteer Puppy Raiser work through a challenge their puppy may have. These issues require a lot of support and time, but when I see that puppy making progress and improving towards its end goal of changing someone’s life, it’s all worth it.

Q: Is there such a thing as a “typical” day? What does that look like?

A: There is no such thing as a typical day. One day I may be in the Pup House helping a mom whelp, another day I may be in the city training a guide dog or working an event to find more volunteers. Every day is different. If our Volunteer Puppy Raisers need help with something or a puppy is having an immediate problem, our schedule changes very quickly as the support of our Volunteer Puppy Raisers is always a top priority.

Q: What is a favorite story or memory relating to your work at Fidelco?

A: Years ago, we had a graduation banquet the night before our big Walk-a-Thon. When I met the human partner of the dog I had raised at the event, my desire to be a trainer and place these dogs was solidified. Years later, I was the trainer of a dog named “Lily,” and I was able to introduce Lily’s human partner to her Volunteer Puppy Raiser. The gratification of that “full circle” interaction is something that will always stay with me.

Q: How do volunteers support the work you and your team do?

A: Volunteers are vital to everything my team and I do, and we would not be able to do this without our Volunteer Puppy Raisers. They have become like a family to us, and we spend a lot of time with them as we want to make sure they succeed. We also have volunteers who help support and socialize our puppies starting at 3 weeks old in our Pup House.

Our Saturday class volunteers help our Vet Med Department as well as help to work our pups through different skills stations during Saturday classes. I also have several volunteers who help to recruit other volunteers by assisting them through the process or by being ambassadors out in public with their puppies. We have a small staff but rely on hundreds of volunteers to carry out our mission.

Liz walking with a blindfold on while Dodge, a black and tan GSD, is guiding her through Westfarms mall.

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