For more than 14 years, Denise Dellaquila of Mattituck has been a volunteer “puppy raiser” for Canine Companions for Independence, a service dog organization.
“People ask me how do I do it, and I say how do I not,” Ms. Dellaquila said. “It’s really an honor to give someone a dog. It’s the greatest gift in the world.”
Ms. Dellaquila has trained eight puppies on the path to become service animals, but she’s had to pay out of pocket for the dogs’ vet care, food and medicine.
Now on her ninth dog, Ms. Dellaquila won’t have to worry about that anymore.
Ms. Dellaquila was presented with a Puppy Care Package Tuesday morning for her latest service dog, an 11-week-old puppy named Wellington, from Henry Schein Animal Health, an animal health product company.
The care package, one of the first awarded in the country, contains “items essential to raising and caring for a puppy during its first 18 months of life,” like Lean Treats and coupons and rebates for vet visits that would hopefully defray the costs, said Caryn Reysen of Henry Schein.
The package also includes heart medications and dental chews.
Henry Schein Animal Health also honored Ms. Dellaquila’s vets, Dr. Daniel D’Amato; Dr. Robert Pisciotta; and Dr. Jennifer Cabral of North Fork Animal Hospital in Southold, for helping to care for the puppies.
“We came out here to honor them,” she said.
“Everyone does their part for a beautiful, wonderful, caring organization,” Ms. Dellaquila added.
The donations will mean a lot, said Debra Dougherty, executive director for the northeast region of Canine Companions.
“We are very reliant on our volunteer base to raise our puppies and help fulfill our mission,” she said. “They so selflessly give.”
Ms. Dellaquila said she first started volunteering because of the group’s mission to provide those in need, especially children, with service dogs.
“Everything they do is just done with excellence,” she said. “They provide serivce dogs for children. My children were very young, so we thought it’d be a good idea for them to learn to care for a puppy and about volunteering.”
She admitted it’s hard to see the puppies go after just 18 months. She’ll miss Wellington when he moves on to more advanced training. But knowing the impact the service animals can have makes it all worth it.
“When you see children get their dog you’re so proud,” Ms. Dellaquila said, holding back tears. “You’re so proud to be involved with such a wonderful organization and honestly I feel blessed.”
Photo caption: Caryn Reysen of Henry Schein, Dr. Robert Pisciotta and Denise Dellaquila with her 18-week-old puppy Wellington accept the Puppy Care Package Tuesday morning.