It’s 4:30 in the morning, and the sun hasn’t risen yet. Somewhere a K9 caretaker is turning their alarm off as they get out of bed to prepare for their morning shift. Caring for Service Dogs in training starts at 6 a.m., seven days a week.
“We are the first people the dogs see in the morning and the last ones they see at night,” said Lynn, K9 caretaker.
K9 caretakers start their days feeding and caring for the dogs. That means caring for over 150 dogs across our three campuses. While the dogs enjoy their breakfasts, the K9 caretakers begin the arduous process of cleaning the kennels. All bowls and enrichment items are removed from the kennel runs to be washed and sanitized. Kennel runs and beds are sanitized, rinsed, and squeegeed dry. Fresh, full water bowls are provided.
This process is repeated with the dogs’ outside kennel runs. Caretakers’ days are filled with cleaning, cleaning, and more cleaning. Baths, food bowl preparation, sanitizing yards, washing and folding mountains of laundry, unloading and storing hundreds of bags of food and boxes of treats. The list goes on and on. Dinner and final walks are completed by 7 p.m. The long day is over, and the dogs are asleep for the night.
The job of a K9 caretaker is quite unglamorous. It is a physical, dirty and exhausting job, and it can seem completely unrewarding. But if you’ve made that assumption, you couldn’t be further from the truth.
“The dogs start to open themselves up to you little by little, with each walk, petting session, bath, playtime,” said K9 caretaker Merideth.
The dogs arrive, often from shelters, confused and scared. Then, they have some time to relax and adjust to their new environment before they begin their training.
“We give them plenty of love” said Lynn.
We build relationships and bonds with the dogs.
It’s hard not to.
They win you over with every smile, head tilt, tail wag, and cuddle.
Within a few short months, these dogs have gained trust in people, learned new skills, and become confident and focused Service Dogs. Before you know it, they are ready for their Warriors.
Pairing day and graduation day are always bittersweet.
“The closeness built with each dog does not outweigh watching a Warrior bond with their dog,” Meredith explained. “The life of the Warrior is about to become less challenging for them because of their dog.”
We are lucky enough to see that hope bloom when the Warrior first meets their Service Dog. We see the trust and confidence grow between them and their Service Dog. On graduation day, we get to watch the Warriors receive their certificates with pride and joy. They leave our campus prepared and ready to tackle a new day, confident that their service dog is with them every step of the way.
It is a great privilege knowing that for however long each dog is with us, we personally played a role in caring for that dog so they would be ready for their Warrior. It is our way to serve those who have already served us.
The job of a K9 caretaker is quite unglamorous, but it sure is rewarding.
Our program serves all-era veterans with a diagnosis of service-connected PTSD, TBI & MST. We provide highly-trained Service Dogs at zero cost to all-eras of veterans.
If you have questions about the application process, please give us a call at 904-686-1956 9am-5pm ET, Monday through Friday.
To make an impact with K9s For Warriors, apply for one of our open positions!
From K9 caretaker to housekeeper, you can make a difference.