S G O D O ‘N WED’ ALLO pply doesn’t a ’s to Airdrie gar a Ed Samanth
aking puppy love to the extreme, the young canine crusader lives with her Labrador retriever, Rosemary, 24 hours a day – whether at work, school, the movie theatre, the grocery store, the doctor’s office or any other public place. But unlike most dog devotees, Edgar is licensed to heel as a puppy-raiser through the Pacific Assistance Dogs Society (PADS). Leading Rosemary through a shopping mall where four-legged friends rarely go tends to turn a few heads. “We have to explain to them this is an assistant dog in training and they are allowed to be here and we have certificates for them,” says Edgar. Puppy-assist trainers receive their furry friend at around eight weeks and the dog remains in the home between one-and-a half and two years. With help from PADS and weekly training sessions, it didn’t take Edgar long to bone up on needed puppyraising skills. As with raising a child, it’s a roller-coaster ride of ups and downs during the education process, which focuses on both socialization and obedience skills. “You’re trying to teach the dog something,” she says, “and you’re in a mall and there are a thousand different smells, they’re trying to eat stuff off the ground, they’re trying to sniff everyone around you. “Sometimes it’s frustrating, but you just take a breath and start this over. I have to work on my patience,” chuckles the 21-year-old. A total volunteer venture, puppy-raisers provide food, shelter, leashes and collars, as well as any costs arising from emergency medical fees, vaccinations, tattooing and X-rays (which can be recouped at the end of training through a tax receipt for a charitable donation). Volunteers agree to no compensation except the unconditional love and affection found from a loyal canine. “They’re so good about loving everyone,” says Edgar. Edgar’s puppy-raising began two years ago, when her family – mom Michelle and dad Mike, with whom she lives – decided to become involved with PADS. Along with training, the Edgars also puppy-sit for other raisers, taking in a blond Labrador named Roma this past summer. PADS encourages puppy-raisers to introduce their dogs to loud noises, crowded areas and other distracting environments on a daily basis. The prominently yellow PADS coat is used to identify the pooches as working dogs, as well as raising awareness.
samantha edgar opens her doors and heart to Pads trainees roma (blond lab) and rosemary (black lab).
“As much as people want to pet them, we’re trying to train them to only focus on the trainer,” Samantha says. “If they’re with someone with a disability, they need to be focused on that person and can’t be distracted by other people calling them or whistling or trying to pet them.” PADS graduates go on to assist people with all physical disabilities except the blind. Apart from teaching her canine companions such common commands as“sit,” “down” and“heel,” Samantha focuses on special skills of standing, heeling beside wheelchairs, and advance training for taking off socks, opening and closing doors and even picking up keys or a credit card. “We have to work really hard on stands,” she says, “because if they go to someone [who] needs them for stability … when they get pushed they have to stay in their stand.” It takes a special breed of person to live, love and train a dog literally 24 hours a day, then say goodbye after two years. This is the second PADS venture for the Edgar family members, who helped graduate their first dog, Tully. Even through that anxiety, hesitation and a few tears about giving up Tully, Samantha says the consolation is seeing the dog go to a good cause. “It was a little sad because I’ve had her since she was a puppy. I didn’t want to really give her away, but she’s going to help someone [who] needs her more than you do,” she says.“This is pretty much the best way that I can help people with what I really like doing.” life winter 2013/14 |