Sixteen year-old Amanda and her mum Janet are a puppy caring team from Melbourne. Along with puppy Lima they also have breeding dog Pablo.
Why did you want to become a Seeing Eye Dogs puppy carer?
Amanda: I thought it would be a fun experience as part of my school’s Duke of Edinburgh program. At the same time, I also wanted to help people who are blind or have low vision.
Janet: I wanted my kids to experience having a dog in the family but I wasn't sure if we were ready for the responsibility. Back in 2016, I came across an invitation for a Seeing Eye Dogs Open Day to learn about puppy caring and took along Amanda.
It was an eye-opening experience for both of us, and I signed up to be a puppy carer there and then. The open day addressed my concerns around where we might leave the dog if we go overseas or the costs of vet bills and food. I don't need to worry about these things as a puppy carer for Seeing Eye Dogs, as all costs are covered.
Our only costs are on extra toys and some approved treats.
What is the training like?
Janet: The first couple of weeks with Lima was difficult and exhausting as we tried to establish a routine of sleeping through the night and toilet training. Once that was done, we focused on specific skills. It's a great feeling to see the puppy learn and grow.
What support do you receive from Seeing Eye Dogs?
Amanda: We receive a lot of support and information during regular meetups with our puppy development trainer, Mark. There’s also group training sessions with other puppy carers, where we can share advice and experiences. We’re lucky to have friends who are puppy carers and we get to meet up regularly and do our training together.
What is it like having the puppy in your home?
Amanda: It's great coming home to an adorable puppy after school.
Janet: There's never a dull moment. It's great to watch Lima and Pablo play and interact together. Sometimes we involve Pablo in our training sessions with Lima at home.
How do you incorporate the pup into your social life?
Amanda: We bring Lima everywhere we go. We have been to the city, restaurants, friends' homes, cafes, church, dentist, orthodontist, doctor, hospital for a blood test, shopping malls, hair salons and supermarkets. We have also taken her on public transport.
What is it like to have a puppy in the workplace?
Janet: At first people were curious and wanted to pat her. I took the opportunity to explain my role as a puppy carer for Seeing Eye Dogs and the future role of the puppy. I am glad that people have been great not to distract Lima when she's at work with me. I tether her to her crate when I am in the office and she has settled in nicely into her routine. We have a big open grass area outside the office where I take her for regular breaks.
What do you love about being a puppy carer?
Amanda: I love playing with the puppy and attending group training sessions where I get to meet the other Seeing Eye Dogs puppies.
Janet: I love watching the puppy grow and learn new things in new environments be it at home, work and places we visit. There are some challenges along the way but we have great support so it doesn't feel like we are doing this on our own. Also, I love how the kids have stepped up and helped with the training at home.
How hard will it be to give the pup back?
Amanda: We knew what we signed up for. It comforts us that Lima is going to be a great help to someone who needs it.
Would you become a puppy carer again?
Amanda and Janet: Yes, we would!
If you would like to find out more about becoming a Seeing Eye Dogs puppy carer, please attend one of our FREE information sessions, hosted both online and in-person.