Kathy and Peter

Volunteers Kathy and Peter“After the first couple of weeks of housetraining is over, it’s a dream.”

Kathy and Peter Kawalilak should know. They just got their 10th puppy to raise.

Peter is semi-retired, a former police officer now working for the 911 call centre. Kathy is a teacher about to retire her full time position and go on the substitute list. They live in Sherwood Park in a house they share with one adult son, their 12 year old ‘keeper dog’ and every year for the past nine, a Dogs with Wings foster puppy.

Like every other DWW foster home, they are always asked how they can bear to give up a dog they have raised and loved for a year. After all this time, Kathy still feels deeply and says her good-byes at home, sending Peter to attend the ‘pass over’ ceremony. But Kathy keeps doing it because, “When I see the success that the dog has with its client, on Facebook and through stories, it is the most rewarding thing.” Peter has just always loved puppies, seeing the success as they learn and change and grow. He thinks getting a new puppy every year is just great.

Kathy and Peter have volunteered for Dogs with Wings in several different roles. They have fostered and provided short term boarding and they have helped train new adult volunteers. Peter is currently a trainer’s assistant in the new TA program. As an active policeman, Peter used to bring his police cruiser and fellow officers to expose the dogs to uniforms, radios and other police gear, and to the siren – a very important step in their training.

Puppy raising is what they have always loved best. For Peter it is mostly about the dogs, he was involved in raising puppies for the EPS K-9 unit before volunteering for Dogs with Wings. He keeps the end goal in mind however, “Someone needs this dog more than I need a pet.” Kathy is all about the people. She recalls clients and their families, their special needs and which of her fostered puppies they now rely on. “When you see Oscar and Reid, Spirit and Warren, and Odie in his Victims Services role, you realize the difference you are making in people’s lives.”

You would think out of nine puppies Peter and Kathy would have a favorite, but no, to them all were special. They also never had a bad dog, “they all have their quirks – every puppy shows improvement and successes as they grow.” They have had to board ‘challenging dogs’ from time to time.

One of the rewards that they experience is that the dogs always remember them. They still get warm greetings from DWW Eddy, one of their first foster puppies at the DWW Gala. When DWW Hudson came to visit he still went to the washroom in the very spot in their yard that he’d been trained to go.

What would Kathy and Peter say to new volunteers? “This is rewarding and life fulfilling. Anyone who volunteers is looking to give back. This is your way of giving back in a special way. It’s not hard. Yes, it’s a commitment and life changing – walking the dog every day is a healthier lifestyle! Its fulfilling. And there is nothing like puppy breath!

When I see the success that the dog has with its client ... it is the most rewarding thing.

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