When Linda Shepard discovered the Indiana Canine Assistant Network (ICAN) in 2017, she knew she had found what she was meant to do: be a litter host.
As a litter host, Linda agrees to welcome a pregnant ICAN breeder dog into her home two weeks before the dog’s due date so that she can get comfortable in her new environment before delivering her puppies. As the mother begins giving birth, the litter host works alongside ICAN’s whelping team to safely deliver the puppies.
Being a litter host comes with many unique and exciting opportunities, but Linda’s favorite part? The moment that the last puppy has been born and the whelping team begins planning the feeding and care schedule.
So, Linda, who has always had a house full of dogs, completed the volunteer class and eagerly waited for the moment to arrive when she could host a whelp in her home.
“It can be tense, but I feel a huge sense of relief and accomplishment helping to deliver the puppies. It’s so rewarding,” she said.
After the birth, the litter host gets to pick themed names for each newborn puppy. And because Linda loves music and sports, many of her litter themes reflect that.
So far, Linda has had five litters and 36 puppies in her home, with plans to host more soon. But Linda doesn’t do it alone. After the litter is a few days old, litter sitters come to her house to help feed and handle the puppies for a couple of hours. She explains that experienced litter sitters are often just as knowledgeable as the litter host and are a tremendous help.
It takes a team to deliver and care for newborn puppies, and Linda has made lifelong friends through ICAN, many that she talks to daily. The volunteers all lean on each other for advice and support throughout the process.
She said, “I feel very fortunate to have so many friends made through ICAN. And it’s all because of these dogs.”
As the puppies grow and eventually head to puppy raisers, incarcerated handlers, and furlough volunteers, Linda feels a tremendous sense of accomplishment.
She said, “Being a litter host is like raising your kids, sending them off to college, and watching them grow up to be something great.”
You, too, can make a difference in the lives of Hoosiers by caring for our newest service dogs in training. If you’d like to help unleash possibilities, contact ICAN Volunteer and Education Manager Julie Mathias at email@example.com.