Saint Francis Service Dogs 2022 Annual Report

Volunteer Spotlight Katie and Ryan Read

thousands of photos to show how much each has meant to them. But as much as they love each and every dog and as hard as it is to say goodbye, the Reads recognize and appreciate the bigger contribution they are making. “Ultimately, we are helping people. We get to do that through this brief interaction with these puppies. We put all our energy into each dog. It is hard for all the right reasons,” Ryan says. Ryan says with a laugh, “Never say never. It’s Saint Francis. I don’t think there is a better organization to volunteer with. Everyone there works so hard for the same mission.” Thank you Katie and Ryan for your incredible dedication. You are a vital part of the Saint Francis family! So, will there be a fifth puppy raised by this amazing couple?

During that time, Ryan started working for Saint Francis as Volunteer Coordinator. The couple was able to watch every part of JoJo’s progression as she moved into Advanced Training and they were able to foster her on the weekends. Katie says, “You want them to be successful.” Ryan agrees saying, “There is that drive and that push to get that dog to the place they need to be.” In 2017, Ryan and Katie made a big move across the country to California, but still wanted to be involved. Walker, with the help of Pups in Flight, made his way to the West Coast soon after. At the same time, Katie was battling some significant health issues. The presence of sweet Walker ended up being a blessing in disguise. Ryan says, “Walker would go to oncology appointments with her. He was such a good distraction during those times…just to have a wagging tail.” When Walker successfully moved on, the Reads decided they were ready to open their hearts once more. The Reads welcomed their fourth puppy, Wells, in 2021. A few months ago, after more than a year with Katie and Ryan, Wells graduated the Puppy Program and began working with one of our expert field trainers in Advanced Training. The Reads estimate they have had at least 75 Saint Francis service dogs in-training in and out of their home over their years with our organization and have the thousands and “I thought, I have the capacity to do this again,” Katie says.

It started with the simple idea of just wanting to give back in a small way. Now, nearly a decade later, Katie and Ryan Read, four-time volunteer puppy raisers, have touched the lives of so many through the dogs they have loved, cared for, and trained for Saint Francis. “We have been able to help people and families we don’t even know. We have gained so much through every single dog,” Ryan says. This vibrant couple started with puppy sitting on the weekends while Katie was working at Virginia Tech, but quickly moved into puppy raising, welcoming puppy, George, into their home in 2013. Katie says, “He had so much energy! It was so special to start going to class and meeting all the other puppy raisers. You are just welcomed into this wonderful family.” With George, Ryan and Katie quickly learned all that goes into the very important duties of a volunteer puppy raiser, including the frequent interactions with the public while out with a service dog in-training. Katie says, “You become ambassadors. We were happy to take on that role. It makes you realize how much education needs to happen.” After their first successful experience with George, the couple didn’t hesitate when asked if they wanted to puppy raise again. JoJo bounced into their lives in 2014. “It is so much fun – just learning how to communicate with this new animal,” Ryan says.

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