A person playing with their dog
22 March 2021

I Share a Dog with 7 Other Families – and Love It!

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Posted by  | Elena de Frutos | 22-Mar-2021


Elanco colleagues from Spain and Portugal volunteer to helping socialize future therapy puppies in their homes so that they can grow up happy and healthy service dogs. Elanco Iberia in collaboration with CTAC (“Centro de Terapias Asistidas con Canes”, a Center for animal-assisted therapies with dogs) agreed to fund and support the early life of about 30 therapy dogs in training. Elanco’s Elena de Frutos, Regulatory Affairs Manager in Spain, shares her experience of living with Fanta, one of the first two puppies raised as part of the pilot program.

When I first heard of the opportunity to volunteer as a temporary dog owner, I immediately knew that I wanted to be part of this initiative. How often do you get the chance to do good and have so much fun at it?

I am a veterinarian by training, but I have never had a dog of my own. Fanta is the first dog to live in my house and since she moved in, I cannot imagine my home without a dog anymore.

Fanta, a cute brown Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy, is about 8 months old and is just starting to explore the world. She is calm and friendly in nature and adapts easily to changing situations. When she grows up, the dog will have an important job: Fanta and her sister Sam were selected to serve in animal-assisted therapy programs.

Together with seven other Elanco colleagues from the Barcelona area, I volunteer to help Fanta learn the ground rules of living with humans. All families take turns at hosting the puppy for two weeks each. While she stays with us, we expose her to different lifestyles and situations, help her get house trained, and teach basic commands.

While I am working from home due to the COVID19 pandemic, I can spend lots of time with the dog, teach her tricks and give her lots of love and snuggles. Luckily, Fanta enjoys cuddling as much as I do and keeps me company every minute of the day. Having her around has taught me a lot about unconditional love. She quickly showed me how to embrace the gift of life to the fullest!

But our time together is not just fun and games. At a young age, therapy pups need to be trained regularly to prepare them for their future roles. That’s why all Elanco volunteers participate in virtual dog training courses and stay connected through What’s App, exchanging photos and receiving advice from the sponsoring association on how to best care for the puppies.

The dogs will continue to live with rotating Elanco host families for nine months. During this time, Purina provides the dog’s food while Elanco provides hygiene, health and parasite protection products that help us keep the pups safe. Besides, volunteers need to observe a strict feeding regimen to ensure the pup stays well and healthy.

It’s not easy to resist giving Fanta a treat sometimes. But Fanta has an even more difficult job: She needs to adjust to a different host family every two weeks. Whenever she changes homes, she needs to find her way around a different house, get to know different personalities and follow different routines. But she is incredibly smart and learns fast.

Next week, Fanta will move on to live with the next volunteer family. Then, she’s scheduled to come back to my place twice over the next nine months. I am already looking forward to our next episode together!

Fanta and Sam are the first two puppies that are raised as part of the “Dejemos Huella” (“Let’s leave footprints”) program at Elanco Iberia. When they grow up, the two will work with animal-assisted therapy associations, supporting hospitals, nursing homes, special children's schools and social centers all across Spain. By 2025, we expect that about 30 dogs will have graduated from Elanco’s therapy animal education program. Together, the dogs will improve the quality of life of many people, engaging in about 25,000 therapy interactions throughout their lifetimes.

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