ICAN’s accredited service dog training and placement program is designed to provide safety, friendship, and independence for children and adults with disabilities—and we rely on our dedicated volunteers to help us carry out this mission.
Long-time ICAN Volunteer Beverly Radloff has been involved in whelping and hosting litters since 2017. Below, Beverly tells of her experience with our whelping and litter host program, gives some insight on the process, and explains her passion toward helping ICAN achieve our life-changing mission.
“I was entrusted with ICAN Hope, whose litter was hosted by Mary LeeKoppelman.
“At four weeks of age, the whelping team delivered Hope and her pups to the Indiana Womens’ Prison, where the handlers took over. What a joyful experience it was to see the handlers scoop up the puppies and snuggle them lovingly!
“That was the beginning of my love affair with whelps and whelping.
“In 2018, ICAN dropped off a very pregnant golden retriever who whelped in our home.
“And so our litter host experience began.”
An ICAN whelping or litter host is responsible for hosting a pregnant female dog in their home leading up to her delivery, or whelp. These volunteers are present for the birth of ICAN’s newest service dogs in training..
Beverly says, “The whelping host is responsible for the care of the dam for two weeks prior to the whelp, and for the entire litter for about 4 weeks after the whelp. Mama does most of the work for the first two weeks, feeding, cleaning, and keeping her pups warm. We worry anyway. Is it too hot or too cold for the pups? Who is crying? Is that baby stuck or “lost?”
Whelping in general can come with unexpected surprises! That’s why hosts are required to shadow our whelping team and assist in whelps and caring for newborn puppies prior to hosting their own litter.
Beverly knows firsthand that whelping and litter hosts should be prepared for anything, “How many pups will there be? For our first whelp, we were told to expect 4-6 pups. Surprise! There were 11 pups.”
Whelping and litter hosting comes with a lot of amazing first-time experiences for our volunteers.
Beverly explains, “You are present for the whelp. If you want, you can assist with the birth, removing the sac, suctioning fluid from the lungs, and cutting the umbilical cord. You will weigh pups daily and marvel at how quickly they grow. You will see when their eyes open and they begin to explore their world. You will feed them their first solid food.”
Volunteering with ICAN is so much more than just donating your time. It’s an opportunity to learn more about the service dog industry and even a way to develop new skills and abilities!
“ICAN provides ample opportunity for interested volunteers to learn about whelping through observation and working with current whelping hosts. You will never stop learning,” says Beverly.
We are so proud of our wonderful group of volunteers and the community they’ve created. Whether you help with whelping, furloughing, outreach, special events, or one of our other great volunteer options—you know you have a group of dedicated helpers on your side!
Beverly comments on this, “Trained volunteers are ready to help as much as you need. You are never without someone to call on for a question or concern. You will be part of a team.”
Our volunteers truly help us change lives every day.
Beverly explains how special it is to be part of the whelping and litter host program, “It is a privilege to be selected as a whelping host. It may be a once- in- a- lifetime opportunity or something you want to experience multiple times. Whelping takes over your home. It is messy, it is exhausting, but it is SO fulfilling.
“Your home doesn’t have to be spacious, elegant, or pristine. All puppies need is enough space, a place for Mama to go outside, and a safe and loving environment. ICAN will provide everything else you need, except for sleep.
By choosing to volunteer with ICAN, you can be part of our life-changing mission that enriches the lives of people living with disabilities and helps incarcerated individuals find a sense of purpose.
Beverly acknowledges how great it is knowing that the dogs you work with will go on to help unleash amazing possibilities, “After 4 weeks, you transfer the care of the dam and puppies to another host’s home or to one of the prisons. You will feel sad and proud and relieved all at the same time to have successfully safeguarded these precious future service dogs.”
Dedicated volunteers make it possible for us to provide independence and hope to more individuals, and we love to hear about Beverly’s passion in being a whelping host and providing ICAN’s newest service dogs in-training with a great start to life.
Are you ready to help us change lives? Learn more about volunteering with ICAN. Email us!
ICAN trains and places assistance dogs with individuals in Indiana who have disabilities and provides foundational life skills to inmates through their experience as trainers. To learn more, visit our website and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.