This past summer, while camping I had the great pleasure of meeting Susan Woodman and Denise Whitelaw, volunteer puppy raisers for Canine Companions for Independence. Out of their twenty-four-foot Keystone Bullet trailer one morning came Denise, three large dogs one by one and Denise. I was hooked. Not the usual little dogs that emerge from an RV!
Levonne: Wow, you have three large dogs there!
Denise: We are actually volunteer puppy raisers for Canine Companions for Independence. Traveling with the pups that we are raising actually aids in their training. They are exposed to a lot of different people, areas and animals. Everyone we meet is so friendly and willing to chat.
Levonne: How long have you had your current RV?
Susan: We’ve had this trailer since February 2013. Our first one was an eighteen-footer that we had purchased a year earlier.
Levonne: What are you using for towing?
Susan: We have a 2009 Ford F150.
Levonne: Why did you choose this particular RV?
Susan: It’s good for vacations and quick getaways. Our cousin had a similar one and we really liked it.
Levonne: How long do you intend to own an RV?
Susan: I don’t see us changing rigs any time soon. We bought two in two years! We are pretty happy with what we have and plan on continuing to RV well into retirement……. which is still a ways off for us!
Levonne: What are some of the special challenges traveling with your service dogs?
Susan: Probably the biggest challenge is that they want the bed! Traveling with a service dog is really not complicated. Although puppies in training do not have the same public access rights as service dogs do, All of the places that we have traveled have been very accommodating and accepting.
Levonne: What prepared you for RVing with your animals?
Susan: We never thought of it any other way. We always camped with the dogs so the transition was pretty smooth. We have toys, gear and grooming supplies that we store in the trailer so we are always ready to go.
Levonne: Where do you plan to go and what fun things do you plan to do over the next year with your RV?
Susan: We would like to continue our little getaways near our home in Sacramento. We try to head out one weekend a month during the school year. (We are teachers.) For longer stays we would like to go up toward Tahoe, Yosemite, and Oregon.
Levonne: What is the biggest lesson you have learned as an RVer traveling with several large animals?
Susan: We have learned that RVing is a great way to meet a lot of people and answer questions they might have about service dogs. This allows us to continue sharing our passions with others about Canine Companions for Independence and maybe even have a positive influence on them. We may inspire them to become puppy raisers or to introduce them, or someone they know, to Canine Companions so they can apply for their own service dog. And the second most important thing we have learned: always make sure you have extra poop bags! You never know when you will need to share them!
Traveling with our dogs is very important to us. They are part of the family. If you are interested in puppy raising, you would be able to travel and do all the things you love to do while at the same time, raising a pup that will someday change someone’s life. There is no greater satisfaction than knowing that something you have done has made life a little easier for a person with a disability.
Levonne: How can people get in touch with you?
Susan: Canine Companions for Independence can be contacted through the web at CCI.org They are a nationwide organization with training centers all over the U.S.