Meet that Raiser – Colleen Whelpley

Name: Colleen Whelpley
Occupation: Marketing Director, GE Power Digital
Prison: JJ Moran, Rhode Island
Current Pup: Barley, 1 yr, 6 mos old

How long have you been a Weekend Puppy Raiser and how many dogs have you raised? (Include furloughed dogs and the one you are currently raising).

I, along with my husband Larry, have been a puppy raisers since 2007. We have raised 11 puppies, 9 service dogs, 1 furloughed and raising Barley now.

What led you to Weekend Puppy Raising?

I read an article in the Providence Journal about a veteran that graduated with his service dog and came down to the JJ Moran Prison in Rhode Island to meet the inmate that trained his service dog. The article mentioned that the service does was also trained by ‘weekend puppy raisers’, and I thought, “I want to do that!

Ice Breakers
If you had your own talk show, who would your first 3 guests be?

Rescue, the service dog and his humans, Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes, to interview them about their great book.

If you had one extra hour of free time a day what would you do with it?

  • Sit outside in the sunlight, read or have a picnic. (It’s been a cold dark, spring!)

Would you rather be able to speak all foreign languages or talk to animals?

  • I already talk to all the dogs I meet, so if I could finally understand their responses, that would be amazing.

If you could visit one place in the world where would it be and why?

  • I have several places on my travel bucket list but I’d love to visit Australia and New Zealand. I want to travel more and love this quote from Anthony Bourdain: “Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you.”

Are you a listener or a talker?

  • Talker! I even talk with dogs. OK, fine, yes I talk with all animals I come across.

Tell us your favorite part about being a Weekend Puppy Raiser or your favorite memory with one of the NEADS pups.

  • I really enjoy interacting with people in public about service dogs in training, explaining the NEADS program to them and talking about what service dogs can do for people who need them.

My favorite memory was when I was in Target with a service dog in training and a little boy, maybe 5 years old, walked by us with his mom.

“Mom! Mom! Mom! There’s a dog in here! She can’t have a dog in here!” – the little boy yelled out in loud, non-filtered kid volume voice. The mom stopped walking and calmly responded “That special dog that can go in stores.”
Not convinced, the little boy asked “How do you know??”
“Well, do you see the vest on the dogs back?” -asked the mom
“Oh!! Is that so she can ride it?” – was the first question the little boy asked. He thought the service dog vest was like a saddle and was asking if I was going to ride the dog like a horse. I could not stop laughing and neither could the mom.

Read the entire Meet that Raiser series here.