Changing Lives from Maine – Why I’m a NEADS Puppy Raiser

May 13, 2024

by Sue Walsh, NEADS Maine Puppy Raiser since 2009

Everyone has their story of how or why they became a NEADS Puppy Raiser; mine started nearly 15 years ago.

I began showing dogs in obedience competitions when I was16, and at that moment I knew I was meant for the world of dogs. My dog was a beautiful Rhodesian Ridgeback, and she had a very successful show career.

Showing dogs turned into training dogs. I apprenticed with an excellent trainer and eventually went out on my own.

That’s where I met Kathleen Whalin, who came to my classes with the Service Dog in Training puppies she was raising for NEADS. She had some pretty great pups, and I was always excited to see them grow up and watch for her next one. Kathleen loves raising puppies and always encouraged me to do one or two… I told her I’d put it on my bucket list.

I already had a busy training schedule and a little brown and white Cocker Spaniel named Moxie, who was my “heart dog.” We were doing a lot of showing, and I had three other cockers, so I thought, “for now, four is plenty.”

The years passed, and in September 2009, I had to say goodbye to Moxie. Even though I had my three other dogs, Moxie was my show dog, my gal, my heart dog, and I was devastated.

One day, Kathleen gently said that maybe this would be a good time to raise a puppy. I agreed and applied to NEADS.

Two months later, I got my first NEADS dog,

Chester, a fluffball of a Golden Retriever. We hit it off right away. He was just my kind of dog – bright, funny and very eager to learn. Our sessions with NEADS Trainer Dave were so fun, our conversations about dogs were deep. And I learned many new training concepts and ideas.

I was sad to return Chester to NEADS when he was ready for advanced training, but I was excited to see what he would become. And the next puppy, a Golden named Ginger, was already waiting. Ok… I’ll raise a second dog…

Service Dog Chester: Chester completed his training and was matched as a Service Dog with a man named Mike. Chester was Mike’s second Service Dog from NEADS. Read Sue’s story about her meeting with Mike and Chester here.