Guide dog puppy George is just one offspring from guide dog mum, Ela, and guide dog dad, Zebedee. They’re all part of the same family, but each plays a different role in creating life-changing partnerships. While their lives may have taken them in different directions, we find out how they’ve brought three volunteers - each with a different role - together, not just by a common cause but through their canine family.
Connect the dogs, from left to right: guide dog dad, Zebedee; the Saunders family with guide dog mum, Ela and and her litter of puppies; Trudie with guide dog puppy, George.
Louise and guide dog dad, Zebedee
Louise and her family decided to open their home to Zebedee, a guide dog dad, as a way to welcome a dog to their family without having to manage the tricky puppy stage alongside two young children.
Louise says: “Zeb is just a regular dog to us, however we are reminded of his role when the phone rings to say that he has a 'date'! It’s always exciting to hear which lovely lady he's been matched with and we've been fortunate enough to make contact with many of his girlfriend’s families. It's been really great to meet some of the brood holders, including the Saunders family, the beautiful guide dog mums and their gorgeous pups. We are in complete awe of the work that they do caring for the mums and pups in their first few weeks and the opportunity to thank them in person has been very special.”
Saunders family and guide dog mum, Ela
For the Saunders family, being volunteers for guide dog mum, Ela, is the best of both worlds - a well-behaved family pet that also has an important role in helping others. Louise says: “You've got this amazing member of your family but then also you know they're not just an ordinary dog but actually they're going on to be responsible for a wave of change for somebody.”
A volunteer breeding dog holder (brood) means proving a loving home and caring for a guide dog mum and her puppies when they arrive.
While they love the excitement of having a litter of puppies in their home, the appeal soon wears off when they start exploring the world and become a bit of a handful. Ela had her second litter in the summer of 2023, which was captured on Channel 5’s docuseries Puppy School for Guide Dogs: “They're quite big, they're very active and they're lovely individually, but when there's like seven of them, it's mayhem. It’s not about giving them up. It’s about them moving onto the next stage of doing something wonderful.”
When they are ready to leave mum, the puppies head into our National Centre for health checks and vaccinations before going to their puppy raisers’ homes.
Trudie and guide dog puppy, George
George is the eighth pup to be raised by Puppy Raiser Trudie, who has been looking after guide dog puppies since 2014 – despite her original intentions! She says: “I only meant to do it for a year, just to get it out of my system, but I fell in love and the time has just flown by.”
As an experienced puppy raiser, Trudie knows that all dogs are different, but George is proving to be a bit of a star. Trudie says: “He is absolutely brilliant. He’s so clever and bright and so affectionate. He has settled in so well, I feel like he’s been here forever. Everyone loves him, he takes everything in his stride. He’s shown a lot of potential already and I couldn’t have wished for a better puppy.”
George is one of Ela’s puppies whose birth featured on Channel 5’s ‘Puppy School for Guide Dogs’. Although George had already settled into his new home when the show aired, Trudie loved the opportunity to see George and his siblings, along with mum Ela and the Saunders family, on the small screen – and get a glimpse into a side of the puppy process she doesn’t usually see. She says, “It was so nice to see him [on TV] and to see where he came from, it was great to get that insight.”
Trudie is still in touch with the Saunders family and the other volunteers who are raising George’s siblings, and they are hoping to meet up soon for a family reunion.
Before George moved in with Trudie, the Saunders gave him a very special gift – a little crochet blanket with the scent of his mum and siblings. Trudie will carry on the tradition next year when George goes into training, and will send him on with a bag of his favourite toys and his blanket, to help him settle into his new home with his fosterers.