SARASOTA, Fla. - Most dog owners are happy when their dogs obey one or two simple commands. But two Suncoast women are training and teaching puppies thirty different ones.
Linda Becker and her friend Leigh Anne Novak are volunteer puppy raisers for Canine Companions for Independence. Both women received golden retriever/lab puppies when they were eight weeks old.
“We have them for a year and half and we teach them 30 out of 40 commands that they need to know,” explained Becker.
Becker’s newest puppy is named Bob and he will spend the next year and a half of his life being trained by Becker. After the initial training, the dogs will spend another nine months learning specific skills like turning on and off lights and how to help with laundry.
Leigh Anne Novak has been training puppies for eight years.
“Canine Companions places dogs with children and adults with disabilities other than blindness,” said Leigh Anne Novak.
Novak has trained six dogs and Becker has trained twelve. It is a huge commitment, but one they both agree is worth it.
“I see the difference it makes in people’s lives. It is so rewarding when you see a dog matched and working in the capacity that they were born to do,” explained Becker.
Knowing the dogs will eventually be assisting someone who needs their help is worth the heartbreak of giving the puppies up after a year and a half.
“It is tough but you know, they are never yours. I always tell people, nobody will love them more than me but somebody needs them more than me. That is kind of my mantra that I live by,” said Becker.
“When you see [your dog] and they turn their back on you and go to that person in a wheelchair or with the crutches or whatever that situation is wagging their tails and loving on that person, we live for that because that proves to us we did the right thing. We raised a really strong, happy, healthy dog and that match was made in heaven,” said Novak.
Both women plan to continue raising puppies for Canine Companions as long as they are able.