21 May 2024

Want to cuddle puppies and help others? Let Kiama woman Angela Seddon show you how it's done

| Zoe Cartwright
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Angela Seddon's daughter Kalia with assistance dog in training, Marlie.

Angela Seddon’s daughter Kalia with assistance dog in training, Marlie. Photo: Angela Seddon.

Do you love dogs – like, really love dogs?

If your answer was a resounding yes, you likely have what it takes to make an immeasurable difference in someone’s life.

Assistance Dogs Australia (ADA) is on the hunt for Illawarra residents to help raise the next generation of life-changing assistance dogs.

ADA is a national charity that provides highly trained, accredited assistance dogs to people with physical disabilities, PTSD, and autism.

It costs $60,000 and takes two years to train each assistance dog, which are given to clients at no cost.

From carrying out practical tasks, such as picking up dropped items, to providing unwavering emotional support, assistance dogs enhance independence, inclusion, and community connection.

From eight weeks to about 14 months of age, assistance dog puppies live with volunteer puppy educators, who care for and socialise pups in their community, as well as complete basic introductory training.

READ ALSO A Kiama dog walker shares the region’s best spots for a stroll with your pup

Kiama’s Angela Seddon began volunteering for Assistance Dogs Australia as a puppy educator during COVID. Unable to work, she wanted a way to give back.

“I saw one of the dogs with their jacket on at the shopping centre and it went from there,” she said.

“I signed up with my daughter – she’d never had a puppy; we had older dogs when she was born so it was a chance for her to take some responsibility, too.”

Their first pup, Aries, brought the family so much joy they’ve now raised five pups, and accommodate extras when other carers go away on holiday.

Angela said it was tough to say goodbye to Aries, but she instantly knew she wanted another pup to raise.

“We went to our first graduation and there was not a dry eye in the house,” she said.

“The difference a dog can make to the life of someone with PTSD or in a wheelchair … people who can’t leave the house before their dog – when you see that it’s just incredible.

“The second we handed Aries over I said, ‘You have to give me another!'”

Angela said one of the most enjoyable parts of raising the pups was having a 24/7 companion.

Volunteers are encouraged to take the pups out and about with them so they get used to the big wide world.

READ ALSO South Coast authors take centre stage for Sydney Writers’ Festival panel event in Shellharbour

Angela and her pups have become a common sight along the Kiama foreshore and in the shopping centre as she exposes them to new experiences and tests their training.

“You have a little companion with you everywhere you go; if you love dogs, it’s amazing,” she said.

“It’s no more work than it would be for your own dog, and they’re just so beautiful and eager to please.

“If you ever leave them alone and then come back into the room they’ll go frantic hunting about for a gift to give you.

“Their idea of a gift might be a dirty pebble or an old teddy and then they’ll wait to drop it at your feet.

“If you love dogs, you’re living the dream.”

It's not easy being this cute - just ask Huddles, Walter, Marlie and Joanne.

It’s not easy being this cute – just ask Huddles, Walter, Marlie and Joanne. Photo: Angela Seddon.

Janine Kefford, head of client and volunteer experience at ADA, said the organisation’s work could not continue without volunteers.

She said ADA had come up with flexible options for puppy educators who might not be able to commit full-time.

“Volunteers are an integral part of our team,” she said.

“We encourage anyone eager to contribute to the training of a life-changing assistance dog to apply, no matter their personal circumstances.”

Volunteers are supported both in-person and over the phone.

All costs for the puppy, including food, vet work, desexing and registration are covered by ADA.

Visit the Wollongong Volunteering Expo at Wollongong Town Hall from 9:30 am to 2 pm on Wednesday 22 May to meet an assistance dog and learn more about ADA.

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