From Shelter to Service Dog Prospects

Table of Contents

Written by Amie Chapman

June 6, 2017

It has been almost six weeks since I prevented Penny, Bianca, and Bernard from entering the shelter system and being at risk of euthanasia.

They have grown so much in that time.

It seems like so long ago that they were wobbly walkers and struggling to learn to eat (because they refused a bottle, they were forced to eat food blended into a thick liquid). But yet I have no idea where the time has gone, how can they be nine weeks old already?!

Penny, Bernard, and Bianca: service dogs in training at play
Penny, Bernard, and Bianca at play


These pups were just over four pounds at three weeks of age and now they are over twenty pounds each.

Some days they gain as much as a half a pound! I used to be able to carry all three of them and now I can only carry one at a time for a very short time. I used to sit with all of them in my lap at once, and now they try to push each other out of the way to have cuddle time and just one barely fits in my lap.


They can now devour three cups of food each feeding in a matter of minutes.

They have gone from eating every six hours to every eight hours now that they have larger stomachs and can eat solid foods. They have also completely outgrown their very first collars and are wearing new ones—we will see how long these ones last.


They haven’t just physically grown, they have grown in other ways too.

When they first arrived they would eat, try to play for very short bursts and sleep the rest of the day and night. Now they can play for over an hour at a time, go for short walks and will stay awake to just observe what is going on around them. They still sleep a lot, but they require a lot more attention and stimulation to be content.


Their brains are like little sponges and they love to learn.

They are learning to potty outside, walk on a leash, how to come when called (they are learning their names too!) and how to properly interact with other dogs. All three have mastered the sit command and are now sitting most of the time with just a voice command. Bernard has learned the down command with a combination of a hand signal and voice command. Penny still needs a little help with her down and Bianca is still figuring out what is being asked of her.

“It has been so much fun raising these guys and also a lot of work, as they require a lot of attention to meet their needs.”


Different personalities of each puppy are really starting to develop as well.

Bernard is our adventurous one, he loves to explore everything! He even learned how to climb out out their night time enclosure and made his way from the kitchen into our upstairs bedroom to wake us up in the morning because he was hungry. He knew exactly where to find us. He is also very eager to learn new things. Penny is the sweetheart, she is very mellow, stares at you for approval, and just wants to make you happy. They are all very cuddly, but she is the first to stop playing and sit in a lap if there is one available. Bianca is the prima donna of the group, but still a really good girl most of the time. She knows what she wants and will throw a fit if she doesn’t get it. She can be very stubborn, but is open to learning, when she isn’t busy doing something else. She will whine the most if she is unhappy or uncomfortable with a situation.


It has been so much fun raising these guys and also a lot of work, as they require a lot of attention to meet their needs.

But despite the amount of work they have been, they have also been easy if that makes sense. They bring so much joy that the work is fun … most of the time. They are really good puppies, not too fussy, super sweet, easy to get into a routine, and overall a pleasure to have around. Matt and I have made a really good team with these guys, sharing the responsibility has made it that neither of us is overwhelmed with getting daily duties done. We have both learned so much from these puppies which has also contributed to the enjoyment of having them. Watching them grow and develop has been priceless and we wouldn’t change it for anything.

Amie and Bianca
Amie and Bianca


Our time with them is going to come to an end soon.

They are getting to an age that they need more one-on-one attention and training, something that takes more time than we have to give them. Running a non-profit with a few people helping and working full time to pay the bills doesn’t allow enough time everyday to focus on the needs of training three puppies as individuals. One day maybe we can figure out how to make this all work and spend all of our time working with puppies to become service dogs. As always it will be difficult to let them go—we are very attached to these pups, but this is part of the process. We have high hopes for them becoming service dogs and are really excited to see how they do as they grow up. I am proud of the job we have done with them and I hope that we can do this again in the future.

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