Five month old Bella featured in Modern Dog Magazine, Global TV
Camille Jensen

PosAbilities director of administration Gina Rowan takes her five-month-old yellow lab Bella with her everywhere, to the movies, dentist appointments — even out for dinner.

Its part of her volunteer work with Pacific Assistance Dogs Society (PADS), a non-profit organization that trains assistance dogs for people who have a physical disability.

Before a dog can be matched with someone who needs its help, it requires two years of nurturing and training, including its first year with someone who can provide love, companionship and guidance.

After seeing these service dogs training in her neighbourhood, Gina says she was intrigued by the idea of becoming a puppy raiser herself.

“I wondered what kind of people do that? And one day I thought, I am the kind of people who do that,” recalls Gina.

She attended an orientation session to learn more before jumping on board and receiving Bella in October.

The adorable and affectionate puppy brings a new element to Gina’s life. She says the puppy has a calming effect and “is so peaceful,” as well as forces her to go outside every day, which is “always re-energizing.”




Each week she takes Bella to a training session hosted by PADS and works to teach Bella basic behaviours such as how and when to greet other people, to stay, sit and lay down.

Bella’s over-the-top cuteness has even attracted media attention. Gina says Bella will be featured in the upcoming edition of Modern Dog magazine, which conducted a feature on service dogs and Global TV, which also ran a feature on the helpful hounds.

“She’s quite the character,” adds Gina.

While it will be difficult to say goodbye to Bella once she is ready for more intense training, Gina says the meaningful difference Bella will make is worth the loss.

“I know it’s going to make a significant impact on someone’s life and that what makes me think it’s going to be OK when she has to leave,” says Gina.

PADS acting communications and campaign co-ordinator Gail Ferrier says people who have received a dog sum up best the impact they have on their lives. Many PADS clients tell her how before they had the dog they were viewed as a disabled person.  With a dog, they say they are a recognized as a person first, who has some physical disabilities.

“That doesn’t sound like a big deal but it’s a major deal,” says Gail.

She adds the Burnaby-based association is always in need of volunteers and monetary support as the program receives no government funding and relies primarily on individual and corporate donations.

To learn more about PADS, visit

If you have feedback on this article, please contact the newsroom at 800-294-0051, ext. 24, or e-mail camille(at)