Meet Mina and Jack Brouillette
Mina is a retired Pedatric Occupational Therapist at Poudre Valley Hospital and Jack is a retired Professor of Sociology at Colorado State University. Together they have raised Mason (4 ½ years), Rosalie (3 years), and Uly (15 months).
When did you start volunteering with CaPR?
We became puppy raisers 4 ½ years ago.
How did you hear about CaPR?
Dogs are not new to us. We have always had dogs in our home. As a therapist, Mina has always wanted to work with service dogs to help people with disabilities, so she searched the web for possible opportunities to work with them.
What do your volunteer efforts include?
As puppy raisers we are responsible for teaching puppies basic behaviors until they are ready for advanced training at about two years of age. Because of the unique skills required for them to become service dogs, the training is somewhat different from that used to train a household pet. We attend bi-monthly sessions with our puppies under the guidance of Angela, Sabine, and Sheila who do an exceptional job in teaching volunteers like ourselves in the use of appropriate training techniques.
We began raising Mason in 2013. Mason fathered two litters and in 2014 one of his “daughters,” Rosie, joined our family. Subsequently, she became the proud mother of two litters. Currently CaPR is raising three of Mason’s “children” and two of his “grand-children.” Very soon two more of Rosie’s pups will be joining the CaPR clan. At present we are raising two dogs: one-year-old Uly and three-year-old Rosie, when she is not away having puppies. Rosie has been an ideal mother and her puppies are predicted to be top notch service dogs. So, she may breed another litter next year.
Beside teaching the pups basic skills like sit, down and and obeying us, most of our time is spent providing them with a wide variety of experiences to socialize them to the many situations they will eventually find when they are required to assist a disabled client. We take them to such things as a restaurant, the shopping mall, on the train or bus, athletic events, the classroom in a school, the grocery store, and the local park. Our dogs really enjoy being out and about, learning to be confident in a wide variety of situations, always under our control and learning not to be distracted by loud noises, other people, squirrels, or other dogs.
What makes CaPR stand out to you above others?
CaPR, like many other organizations, provides high quality service that helps improve the lives of vulnerable populations. Service dogs give disabled people the opportunity to undertake daily living activities that most of us take for granted.
Each year CaPR sponsors a luncheon and program for disabled clients accompanied with their dogs, puppy raisers, trainers, staff and board members. CaPR shows videos of clients working with their dogs, after which they share their experiences on how their dogs have assisted them with many daily living activities and how important the social-emotional bond is in providing them with support. It is very uplifting and heartwarming to hear how the results of our efforts help give clients a greater of independence to enjoy their lives.
Volunteering to raise service dogs appealed to us because we loved dogs, wanted to help people, and the time and monetary commitment were both very reasonable. Although both of us are retired, most of the puppy raisers at CaPR work full time. They take their dogs to school, the office, or wherever they are employed, so it makes it easier to raise a dog and work at the same time.
What is your favorite memory as a CaPR volunteer?
We have found our experience to be both educational and fun. Our dogs have become part of our family. They each have their own personalities and behaviors. We’ve had many endearing moments with them. Mason was the most laid back and was always looking for the opportunity to cuddle up at our feet or on the bed. On one occasion when he was a young pup, we took him to Cabela’s. He stood in front of their giant aquarium watching small fish swim back and forth. All of a sudden a huge fish made a beeline for the glass where Mason was standing. Startled, Mason bolted to the safety of our legs. Fortunately, there was no long term damage to his confidence. J A memorable moment occurred with Rosie when Mina put Rosie’s dinner down on the floor in the laundry room. She had to leave to answer the phone. She returned to the laundry room about 15 minutes later to find Rosie just sitting there staring at her dish full of food. Mina had forgotten to say “release,” the command giving the dog permission to eat. Oh such discipline!! Finally, Uly, our young teenager, is more like Linus and takes her blanket out of her kennel and carries it around the house like a security blanket.
All three dogs have been great companions. We enjoy taking them to restaurants, the mall, volleyball games, and the park. They are good conversation starters. When we are out and about, people will often stop us and inquire about the dogs. The encounter often ends up being a very enjoyable experience. In sum, nothing has been more satisfying for us than seeing one of CaPR’s service dogs help another person, and with such devotion and enthusiasm.
What do you wish for CaPR’s future?
We have thoroughly enjoyed volunteering for CaPR for the past four plus years. We’ve found CaPR to be very well organized and the staff to be very professional, supportive, and personable. The Board of Directors is also very supportive; members frequently attend training sessions and other events. Oh, we can’t forget the other puppy raisers and puppy sitters (volunteers who take care of our dogs when we’re away from home on vacation, etc.). They are such an important group of people from all walks of life giving of their time with the goal of providing assistance to people who face challenges that most of us don’t have to confront.
It would be nice if CaPR could expand its current program to include training for other types of disabilities such as PTSD. This, of course, would be contingent on the organization’s ability to obtain sufficient funding and personnel to expand its mission into new areas.
We hope is that people continue to volunteer to serve as puppy raisers and sitters for CaPR in the future. If it weren’t for us/them, most disabled clients could not afford to purchase a service dog.
Is it difficult to give the dog up at the end of the training period?
We are often asked that question. Although we become very attached to every dog, we are fully prepared to give them up. Mina compared them to our children. We love our children very much, but eventually they are ready to move on to the next stage of their lives just as we have trained them to do. That’s how we felt about Mason when he left us to serve a client several months ago.