Ludovice Family and Nicola

child with Canine Companions service dog

“At first her dad and I were like ‘yeah right, we’re going to raise a puppy and then give it away,’” explains Teresa, Kelly’s mom. “If not for Kelly encouraging us to approve puppy raising as her project to earn the Girl Scout Gold Award, we would have never done this. It was the best thing we have ever done.”

The Ludovice family returned Nicola III to Canine Companions last year for professional training after loving, socializing and training her for a year and a half.

“What we saw the day we turned her in; it was such an inspiration to attend the graduation and matriculation ceremony,” says Teresa. “Attending the ceremony was the perfect way for a puppy raiser to see what it is going to be like if the puppy you raised graduates. How can you not let that puppy go when you know their potential to help someone?”

“I have disabilities myself. I have a developmental delay and I tend to freak out when it is really loud. I learn at a slower rate than other kids my age,” says Kelly. “But we were even able to adjust Nicola’s training a bit to work with my disability.”

Kelly’s favorite part of puppy raising was taking Nicola out in public and seeing people’s reactions. She also enjoyed giving presentations about Canine Companions. “It was my passion for assistance dogs that got me through the public speaking. It is something I love to talk about,” says Kelly. “I really like to inform people that Canine Companions give the dogs for free to people with disabilities and they do a really great job of matching the dogs.”

“Kelly had to show leadership to earn her award,” says Teresa. “So she did presentations for six different groups. I was so impressed that an 18-year-old could do public speaking like this in front of kids of all ages and adults. Puppy raising was such a great family experience.”

The Ludovice family said they’d love to raise another puppy if Nicola graduates, but if she doesn’t make it they will keep her as a pet. “So it is win, win. If she makes it, she gets to do what she was born to do. But if she doesn’t make it, we’ll love to have her as our pet. Maybe she’ll have a change of career; there are lots of nursing homes around here that would love to see her visit,” says Teresa.