Volunteer Puppy Raiser
An interview with Puppy Raiser, Mike Croft (Winter/2005)
How long have you volunteered with WAGS?
I started in February 2002.
What initially drew you to WAGS?
The thought of working with and caring for dogs, and seeing what they could do for people with mobility impairments.
Do you have an especially fond WAGS memory?
WAGS’ dog, Shelby and I were in Madison shopping mall to train with Kinsley Tarr, Kinsley’s mom (Jane) and WAGS program director/staff. While in the food court, we were approached by a woman with a toddler in a stroller. She asked questions about service dogs and Shelby. After greeting Shelby, and receiving permission to pet him and loving him up, she took the stroller and child to order her food. We soon spotted the child’s shoe lying nearby. Most dogs love to work and Shelby was not an exception. He picked up the shoe and walked over to the toddler’s stroller just as the mother started to look for the missing shoe. As if on cue, Shelby approached and the boy laughed and threw his arms open with his palms up. Shelby placed the little shoe onto the open tiny palm. The boy instinctively closed his hand and brought the shoe to his chest, laughing and smiling. Shelby backed away and looked up. It was very rewarding to see this capable dog in action, and to see the reaction he could bring to people. Do you think this toddler will be a life-long dog lover? I know the mother will be! It’s great that the year or so that I help train a WAGS dog can help give someone 10 years of more of working companionship, affection and love. And, when I am working with a WAGS dog in the community, it is astounding to hear how many children tell their parents that they have to ask before petting the dog because it is working. The kids have usually learned this from a WAGS demo or from a volunteer trainer. (Shelby graduated in September 2003 and is now the service dog of Kinsley Tarr.)
Do you have a funny or embarrassing WAGS story?
Since us dog-people sometimes talk like vet technicians, here goes: Before entering a large public facility with Ubi, I tried and tried to get him to pee, but he just could not find a spot to go. We went inside where I found a restroom, this time for myself. While keeping Ubi’s nose off the floor and the urinals, he eventually sniffed the floor drain in the middle of the floor. The next thing I know, he had lined himself up and was using the floor drain as a pee spot. And his aim was perfect. WAGS dogs develop into such problem solvers! (Ubi graduated in November 2004 and is now the service dog of Tracy Canniff.)
Note: As of August, 2008, Mike has helped train Shelby, Ubi, Winston, Dylan, Echo, Ezra, Gracie, Haley, Hero and Henna.