Precious puppy’s training

Traralgon resident Sandra Sumner was reading the paper when she noticed Seeing Eye Dogs Australia had a call-out for volunteer puppy carers.

She applied, had an interview and agreed to an inspection of her house and yard, then waited for a litter to be born.

Within a matter of months, Ms Sumner welcomed a Labrador puppy named Wickham into her home.

“I’m not able to work anymore and I was just looking for something to do that would be worthwhile,” Ms Sumner said.

“I didn’t even get to start looking and really thinking about it, because I saw in the (newspaper) that they were asking for puppy carers.

“And I thought, ‘oh wow, what a great thing to do’.”

The grandmother-of-three’s last pet pooch lived until over the age of 18.

Ms Sumner has not had the heart to replace her just yet.

“This was really good; I can have a dog, I can do something really worthwhile and it’s a challenge,” she said.

Wickham will stay with Ms Sumner until he is between 12 and 15 months old before returning to SEDA for further training.

In the meantime, a supervisor visits the pair regularly to offer guidance while Ms Sumner teaches Wickham behaviour and socialisation skills.

When out for walks or in other public places, Wickham is decked out in a coat, collar and lead and Ms Sumner wears a SEDA lanyard to show the pup’s in training.

The puppy accompanies Ms Sumner to the shops, to parties and even on the bus or in the lift.

“He’s with me all the time,” she said.

“He’s got to have all of those challenges. He’s got to have all of those experiences, all of the time.

“So you’ve got to be able to have the time to put into it.”

SEDA is searching for more puppy carers to volunteer their time and love before the pups transform the life of a blind SEDA client.

Ms Sumner acknowledged you needed “lots of patience, lots of time and lots of love” for the role, which she described as both rewarding and worthwhile.

“I know it’ll be hard to see him go; he’s been with us since he was a little puppy,” she said.

“But hopefully I’ve helped him to achieve that goal of being a seeing eye dog and if anybody else wants to have that feeling as well, then go for it – give it a go.”

Couples, families and individuals can register their interest in becoming a puppy carer.

SEDA covers all costs, including the provision of food and vet fees.

If you are interested in becoming a puppy carer, visit or phone 1800 037 773.