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  • Writer's pictureMindy Schwartz

The Inspiring Journey of Sarah and Wolfie

In order to provide the best possible service dogs to people who need them, Canine Companions breeds dogs with specific temperaments and capabilities. The organization has found that Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and mixes of the two have the most potential.

In July of 2017 a litter of 11 future life-changers was born to Betsy, a breeder for Canine Companions. Each litter is given a letter to start the names of all of the puppies. Betsy’s litter was given the letter W. They are also given a ribbon, and then a collar, in a specific color to denote birth order. Wrangler, the puppy we raised was the 11th puppy, so he got a black ribbon. His sister Wolf, born 6th, had a brown ribbon.

When the puppies are 8 weeks old they go to puppy raisers (PRs), who spend approximately 18 months taking their puppies to class, teaching them 30 commands, socializing these adorable creatures and falling madly in love with them. Sarah, who was chosen to be Wolf's puppy raiser, worked at Canine Companions at the time, so she got to meet her puppy weeks before most PRs and puppies were introduced. She also shared photos and information about the litter with the other PRs, which made us very happy and created a bond some of us still share.

As the days turned to months, Sarah began dealing with some health problems and was eventually diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Around the same time, Wolfie began having digestive problems. The Canine Companions vets could not come up with a long-term solution for the puppy’s problem, so the organization decided to release her. She wouldn’t be a service dog, instead she would become Sarah’s pet.

But sometimes, the most unexpected, miraculous things happen. As Sarah continued to work with Wolfie, she noticed that her puppy was starting to alert to her low blood sugar levels. Sarah reached out to the National Institute of Canine Service and Training (NICST) and their program Dogs4Diabetics. Wolfie was tested and it was determined that, sure enough, she met the requirements to be a diabetic alert dog. Instead of releasing Wolf, Canine Companions agreed to transfer Wolf to Dogs4Diabetics with the understanding that she would become Sarah’s diabetic alert service dog. These dogs are trained to detect changes in blood sugar and can save human lives. Wolf was also diagnosed with copper storage disease so her ongoing digestive problems were treated with a change of diet. Her unexpected career as a diabetic alert service dog had begun.

Now, only a few years after Wolfie’s career as a service dog began, she’s been diagnosed with a degenerative spinal condition. Her life as a working dog will be cut short but her journey will continue. Sarah has decided to get a degree in Assistance Dog Training. She says, “Wolfie will be a great role model and lend a paw in raising and training my project puppy and future service dogs.” I expect the future will bring more inspiring experiences for both Sarah and Wolfie. As puppy raisers for service dog organizations know, these incredible dogs always end up exactly where they are supposed to be.

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