WARREN, Maine — Right now, a group that raises service dogs for veterans and first responders is looking for volunteers who can help care for puppies.
The program is called America's VetDogs. It's a national group based in New York, but the program works with the Maine State Prison in Warren to train future service dogs.
Monday through Friday, the puppies are trained by inmates at the prison. Then, on Saturdays and Sundays, the puppies go with "weekend puppy raisers" to get socialized in the real world.
The problem right now is a shortage of those weekend puppy raisers.
Rebecca Boughter, an advisor for the prison puppy program said, "Right now we have six or seven dogs and only four-weekend raisers. Unfortunately, when that happens, the dogs have to stay in the prison or go to a facility out of state. Honestly, it's a lot better when they stay around here and we can see them from step one to step 10 and make sure they're on the right track."
A 'weekend puppy raiser' is just as it sounds-- someone to take a dog from the prison into their home on Saturdays and Sundays.
The program is generally looking for folks who live within an hour of the prison in Warren.
Weekend puppy raiser Ashby Bartke said, "It is incredible to pick up a dog on a Friday and see how much growth they've made in just a week."
Bartke and her family have been weekend puppy raisers for years now. She loves knowing she played a part in giving a veteran a perfect companion.
"Being part of this team that helps these dogs figure out their purpose...when they get there, it's the most exciting thing. It's the most exciting thing."
To apply to be a weekend puppy raiser, head to vetdogs.org.