"Puppies, most of them purebreds: Free to very special homes• that will provide love, training and at least three socialization outings each week. Professional dog training experience is not required.
• About 12-18 months later, you have to give the puppy back."
No group or organization is running an advertisement like that. I wrote it, imitating the content you sometimes see in newspaper ads or on bulletin boards. But a Michigan-based group is looking for people who would respond to such an ad, who would help raise assistance dogs for people with disabilities.
For 30 years, Paws With a Cause has been placing puppies with individuals and families. When the puppies are at least 1 year old, professional trainers take over at the Wayland, Mich., headquarters.
Some puppies are trained as "hearing dogs" that alert the deaf or hard of hearing to sounds such as smoke alarms, ringing phones, doorbells or crying babies. Others are custom-trained as service dogs to assist people with physical disabilities or seizure disorders. They can pull wheelchairs, open doors, turn lights on and off and pick up objects. In 2009, Paws began training dogs for children with autism.
Right now there are only about 158 Paws puppies in homes across the country, three of them are in the Pittsburgh area. The organization would love to find more "foster puppy raisers" here.
Paws With a Cause has a breeding program with dogs carefully selected for sound health and temperament as well as intelligence and a willingness to work. Donated puppies are also accepted from select breeders. Some small dogs are rescued from shelters, generally for training as hearing dogs.
Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers and standard poodles are often used. The Pittsburgh-area puppies in training are Logan and Luna, 9-month-old Lab-golden mixes, and Hobo, a 9-week-old golden retriever-poodle mix.
How can a family love a puppy and then send it back to the organization?
Although not every dog lover could handle that, "there is a lot of pride in raising puppies that make the program," said Danielle Wilson of Ellwood City, the Paws field instructor who works with the Pittsburgh puppies and their people.
"These are very unselfish people. They put a lot of heart and effort into this," said Ms. Wilson, who has personally raised three puppies for Paws.
It also helps that you can get another puppy. Hobo, for instance, is with a local woman who raised six other Paws puppies. Ms. Wilson, a professional dog trainer, works with the puppy raisers and leads them in basic training sessions. She's also a professional groomer who operates a business, Canine U Training Center and Country Inn, which includes a boarding kennel.
For those who worry about how the puppies feel about leaving their families, Ms. Wilson says they adjust quickly.
"When they go back to Michigan, they get a lot of TLC from their trainers and from volunteers who come in to play with them," she said.
Ms. Wilson also gets to see the dogs at the end of their training, when she works with the local people who receive Paws dogs. Recipients and their dogs become very bonded and are virtually inseparable, she said.
For further information about becoming a puppy raiser, go to www.pawswithacause.org. You can apply online or call 1-800-253-7297 to request the information packet.
A total of 130 dogs were turned into the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society in the first eight days of March. The North Side and Elizabeth Township shelters are at full capacity, so adopters are desperately needed.
A total of 48 dogs were "surrendered by owners" and 56 were brought in as strays. Many were brought it from surrounding counties. Both shelters are offering "March Madness" specials today for dogs over the age of 6 months. There is a 50 percent discount on the usual $50-$100 adoption fee.
Call 412-321-4625 or go to www.wpahumane.org for more information.
WPHS is an "open-door" shelter, so animals are never turned away. But if adopters don't come forward, open-door shelters have to euthanize animals to make room for new animals coming in.
Pet Tales appears weekly in the Saturday Home & Garden section. Linda Wilson Fuoco: email@example.com or 412-263-3064. Got a pet health question? E-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org . It may be answered in an upcoming Pet Points column by veterinarians at the Point Breeze Veterinary Clinic.