Group needs volunteers to help foster Labrador, Golden Retriever puppies

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    LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Guide Dogs of America in Sylmar is urging people to open their homes to help raise three litters of Labrador and Golden Retriever puppies.

"Raising a guide dog or service dog puppy is different from raising a pet dog in that we have very important career goals for these dogs. We are looking for people that enjoy dog training. We are looking for people that understand the importance of consistency in training. It's an involved program, but an intensely rewarding program," said puppy program coordinator Stephanie Colman.

The puppies are fostered by volunteers for 12 months starting when they are eight weeks old. Then once they know basic obedience, they're returned to Guide Dogs of America for more training.

"You are not giving these dogs up; you are giving these dogs forward. You're opening your home and your heart to this dog because you want to make a difference in the lives of the people who will receive these dogs," said Colman.

"It certainly is hard to let go. Every time we've brought a dog to turn in, it's tears and tears and hugs and tears and I think about it now and you tear up, but you just know the joy it's going to bring someone," said volunteer Holly Sjogren.

The puppies will grow up to lead the blind and serve a variety of vulnerable populations.

"Wiki has been trained to guide me because I am visually impaired. It's a very unique and special bond we have with our dogs. We spend just about 24/7 with them and get to know them like our own kids," said Greg Steinmetz, manager of admissions at Guide Dogs of America.

For more information on becoming a volunteer visit Guide Dogs of America.

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