25 Years of Volunteerism

National Service Dogs is only possible because of the support of our volunteers. As we celebrate our 25th anniversary we take a walk down memory lane and see how volunteering at National Service Dogs has evolved. 


  • 3 friends volunteered to support a mother and her child looking for an Autism Service Dog.
  • With the support of a few other administrative volunteers, they started training dogs, raising money, and supporting the community with service dogs all from their own homes.
  • Many of the first dogs in training were sought out through newspaper ads or shelters. They were all older rescue dogs that showed potential to be trained as service dogs.


  • The first litter of potential Service Dogs was born in a volunteer breeder caretaker’s home.
  • This was the start of the puppy raising program.
  • A couple of these puppy raisers also volunteered as trainers helping the dogs finalize their training before placement.
  • Puppy raisers joined pet dogs in training classes as one of the founders had a dog training business.
  • Event volunteers continued to raise money through dog washes and mall community booths (most were family and friends of the founders.)


  • National Service Dogs gained charitable status and started developing a Board of Directors composed of volunteers.
  • The first Graduation Ceremony was held to recognize volunteers who helped the dogs along the way.


  • Rented kennel space for the dogs to stay at when not being trained. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to use this facility for volunteer classes.


  • The organization went from being 100% volunteer-run to hiring 2 paid staff members after NSD received a Trillium Grant. This included a dog trainer and a volunteer coordinator. 
  • Got their own kennel facility that dogs in their final stage of training would live at 24/7.
  • Volunteer numbers grew significantly to 35-40 volunteers helping with routine care of the dogs at their new kennel facility.  Volunteers were needed on evenings and weekends to feed, potty, and exercise the dogs.


  • After attending an ADI conference, the team at National Service Dogs debated sending the dogs to volunteer homes on weekends like some other Service Dog Schools were doing. Thus, the Weekend Sitter volunteer role was created.


  • National Service Dogs moved to 1286 Cedar Creek Rd. Many volunteers helped with the move and home improvements.


  • The Evening Enrichment Program (EEP) was developed using similar protocols to the SPCA Read and Relax program.


  • National Service Dogs received their first accreditation through Assistance Dogs International.
  • During the accreditation,  ADI members pointed out they had never seen anything like the EEP and it was then talked about at the next ADI conference as a best practice for dogs staying in kennel environments. 


  • A focus on Health and Breeding came to National Service Dogs and discussions on how to further utilize volunteers in the early stages of training began.


  • Puppy Educator volunteer roles came to be. 
  • National Service Dogs designated one full-time Volunteer Coordinator to oversee all volunteer activities for the organization.


  • The puppy starter program began in August.
  • Due to a global pandemic the legendary Weekend Sitting and EEP came to a close and NSD returned to its roots with the launch of Doggy Carpool Drivers and Adult Raisers.


  • A volunteer Fundraising Committee began.
  • Stay Tuned! More innovative volunteer developments to come.

The evolution of volunteering in Canada has changed in the past 25 years and so has volunteering at National Service Dogs. What hasn’t changed is how much of an impact each and every volunteer makes for this organization. Thank you volunteers for dedicating your time to National Service Dogs!