Last week a moms' group I'm in arranged an outing to a place called NEADS in Princeton, MA. NEADS trains puppies to eventually become service dogs. I say "eventually" because the puppies leave NEADS at 16 weeks to go live with families and have further training. They do not actually become official service dogs until they're about 2. Part of the training for the NEADS puppies is to become familiar with children. They actually want the puppies to be around kids.
Do you get where I'm going with this? Are you getting the same sense of excitment that I got when I saw the email announcing an outing to play and snuggle with puppies!?!?!
The boys and I arrived at NEADS and went into a large room in one of their buildings. There sat 5 Labrador Retrievers in cages. They were just 16 weeks old. Two were yellow labs, one was chocolate and one was black. Three staff members came and let the puppies out to play. There were toys and tunnels for the puppies...and the kids. Maybe they weren't exactly for the kids, but no one objected when the kids were playing with them.
The staff members all had treats for the dogs and they showed the kids how to give them treats properly. The kids got to pet and play with the puppies. The more noise the kids made, the happier the staff seemed to be. One staff member told me it's because they want the puppies to be used to loud noises. How often do you get told that someone is actually happy that your kid is being loud?
After a half hour, the puppies went back into their cages and the staff brought down three puppies that were 8 weeks. Two were black labs and one was a Shih Tzus. This time the kids sat in a circle and the puppies came up to the kids. Again, the kids were able to give the puppies treats with the help of the staff.
This program is run from 4pm-5pm Monday-Thursday. Every week they get new puppies. I was told that they prefer to get a call saying that you're coming but you don't have to call them in advance. They recommend a donation of $5 per family.
I'll definitely be back with the kids. After all, who can resist puppy breath?