Jed has a new life to lead
He doesn't look much like a puppy, but black labrador Jed has yet to start his grown-up job.
At almost 15 months he will soon go into service as a guide dog after enjoying his last few months with the family who raised him.
He's been with the Mitchells from Te Kowhai - seasoned volunteer puppy walkers - since he was eight weeks old and is even mates with the cats, sheep and chickens.
Jed has chased Cole, 9, in his go-kart, attended school assemblies with Paige, 7, and been the unofficial mascot for her soccer team.
He's a huge fan of playing "tug", jumping into troughs and he sometimes gets them special treatment at restaurants.
To Cole he's "unique" and "very entertaining". Paige likes how he's "playful" and sometimes curls up next to her bed at night.
Those are just some of the benefits to being a puppy walker for the Blind Foundation, according to Alexandra Mitchell.
"We get all the privileges of having a guide dog - we go to restaurants and cafes and the movies and shops . . . and then he can come home and still be a pet," she said.
"We get all of the pleasure of having a dog and none of the cost."
Many people don't know food, vet care and the like is covered by the Blind Foundation and families just have to provide bedding and toys, she said.
And while they may not have "hundreds of dollars" to donate to charities they know the time they put into Jed will make a big difference.
He's the third puppy they have helped so they know the drill.
"The first couple of weeks are like having another baby in the house," Mitchell said.
The time for him to take up his job is approaching and giving up the puppies can be hard.
Paige cried all the way home after they handed over their last dog, although she quickly fell for Jed.
But Shaun Mitchell said it wasn't as hard as it sounded "because you know what they're going to do . . . They're going to make someone's life a lot better."
Caring for three puppies was a "huge commitment to what we're trying to do", Blind Foundation head of guide dogs Paul Metcalf said.
Volunteer puppy walking families did a "tremendous job" and were greatly appreciated, he said.
"They really nurture the dog throughout those very crucial formative months. They're with the family for about 12 months."
There are six volunteer puppy walkers in the Waikato region and the foundation is looking for more.
To find out more or apply call 09 269 0400 during business hours, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit rnzfb.org.nz/puppy-walking.
- Waikato Times