A guide dog’s journey begins at our purpose-built Breeding and Development Centre (BDC) in Manurewa. The dogs in our breeding colony and all their puppies are cared for by a team of dedicated staff. We talk with Trudy Miljak, Senior Dog Care Specialist, with over 22 years of experience of caring for our young puppies.
It’s a common misconception that the BDC staff simply “play with puppies”. What responsibilities do you as a Senior Dog Care Specialist have, and what does a typical day look like for you?
I work full time on the floor in the BDC with the rest of the wonderful team. A typical day consists of cleaning, feeding, and providing enrichment for the Mums and early development of the puppies which involves a range of things from noises, heights, van rides, coats, collars and lead walks plus much much more. However, a typical day is never like the day before. We are always kept on our toes. I also have a group of allocated breeding stock dogs of whom I oversee the care.
Did you always want to work with guide dogs?
I had dreamt of working with Guide Dogs since I was in high school and at age 19 started volunteering in the Training Kennels (TK). Once a job opened up in the BDC, I decided to take the plunge which, after more than ten years, moved me from TK to start anew in the BDC and I’m still going strong.
What’s some advice about raising neonate puppies you wish you had known earlier?
I can honestly say I learn something new with each whelping and litter I oversee.
Can you tell us a bit about your pet dog?
My precious fur child named Ella is my world. She is a four-year-old brindle Staffy cross Mastiff who came into our lives from a rescue and is living the dream at the beach where we live in Port Waikato. Ella’s ‘sister’ is a three-year-old sassy fluffy black cat named Willow.
Outside of Guide Dogs, what are your hobbies and interests?
Gardening, plants and more – we have a beautiful garden at our home and with our amazing climate grow exotic plants from bananas and mangoes. I am also in love with creating crafty things from dream catchers to macrame.