Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Meet Pierce

Oh how sweet she is!

Photo from PVWDC well before she came home with us

She's such a snuggler! She'll crawl right into your lap to fall asleep or gnaw on a toy. She loves climbing over and under furniture, so I think she's going to make a GREAT detection dog.

Through my work, I've coordinated two volunteer days at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, and absolutely fell in love with the work they do (not to mention the adorable puppies =)). After the latest visit, I knew I wanted to become a foster parent to one of these pups, and three weeks later, she is finally here! We are already so in love. 

When we tell people we are fostering a dog for the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, that tends to elicit a lot of questions, understandably so. So here is more info on Pierce, the center, and our decision to foster her.

Who is this adorable puppy?
Pierce is our foster puppy through the Penn Vet Working Dog Center. She is a yellow Labrador retriever bred specifically for traits that will make her an awesome detection dog. I don't necessarily know what those traits are other than being adorable, but I'm sure I'll find out. Her mom, Zzisa, is also a bad ass detection dog. The litter had 9 puppies all of who will be a part of the program.

What is the Penn Vet Working Dog Center and what is a detection dog?
For full info on the fabulous work they do, visit their website here.
The Penn Vet Working Dog Center trains detection dogs that work all over the country in everything from search and rescue, bomb detection, drug detection, diabetes alert and even cancer detection (such cool work, read more here). 

From PVWDC: "Our goal is to increase collaborative research, scientific assessment, and shared knowledge and application of the newest scientific findings and veterinary expertise to optimize production of valuable detection dogs."

What does 'fostering' a PVWDC pup mean?
Typically, fosters will have the pup nights and weekends and while during the week the dog will train at the center with the professional trainers. However, with this new litter (Pierce has 8 brothers and sisters) they did not have enough space to have all of the dogs train during the day. So that raised the question: 
"Can these dogs be successful detection dogs if, for a majority of their early lives, they live as pets only training a few hours a week?"

To answer that question they developed the non-tradition fostering program. This means that Pierce will be living with us for the next 12-16 months training an hour and a half every week for the first little while and every other week until she is assigned a job. Half of the litter will be in the traditional fostering program and the other half non-traditional. 

With this program, all of Pierce's expenses are covered by the center (food, crates, toys, vet bills). If we need to go on a vacation and choose not to bring Pierce, she will go to back-up fosters. However, because he is a service dog in training, Pierce is able to go anywhere we go. Stores, airplanes, hotels, etc. We're looking forward to bringing her with us to a Poconos trip we have planned in September and a few trips to visit friends.

Wait, you have to give her up after 12-16 months?!
Yes, sadly we will. Throughout her time with us the WDC team will be assessing her skill set and determining what 'career' will be the right fit. After she is done training, she will go through one final test and then will be assigned to a handler. Depending on her job, her handler could be different (police officer, TSA agent, etc.). We'll get to meet the handler and help make the transition as easy as possible - although yes I'm sure I will cry... and cry and cry and cry. 

Of course, deciding to enter into this program we knew we would have to give up a dog. We talked about it at length because we had to be sure we were going to be able to do it. We know it's going to be tremendously difficult, but whenever you get a pet you know (sadly) that you'll have to say goodbye to them at some point. With Pierce, we know when we'll have to give her up, but it will be because she's going to do something awesome. We hope we'll get updates on her and the work she's doing after she leaves us, but that's not guaranteed. No denying it, saying goodbye is going to suck.

Alright, so why not just get a dog of your own instead of fostering so you don't have to give it up?
A big part of it is that we really like the work that the PVWDC does and want to be a part of it. The fact that there are no expenses doesn't hurt either. We're also really excited about getting to work with professionals on training Pierce. While we've both had dogs growing up, we really only know the basics. We're going to get really in depth coaching on how to properly train a dog and how to raise a happy, healthy pup. 

We probably will get a 'forever' dog at some point, and when we do we're going to be better owners for having gone through this program (hopefully - unless we're terrible at it and then maybe we'll get a hamster or something...).

Refusing to sit still for any pictures - too much to explore

With her sisters

"I hate car rides"

SOOOO in love - she fell right asleep

Can't handle the cuteness - sorry for my non-existent film skills.

We're expecting a few sleepless nights as Pierce gets comfortable with us and our home, so it might be a bit until I post again. I've added a tab in the top nav just for Pierce so you can cut through my other ramblings and just get to the good stuff - puppy pictures!

Now, pardon me while I go cuddle with our new pup!


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