Golden Retriever puppies will soon begin training with Salem-based Joys of Living Assistance Dogs to become a service or therapy dog. But first, it needs a name. (Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)

Joys of Living Assistance Dogs, a Salem nonprofit that trains service dogs, is asking for the public’s help picking names for six Golden Retriever puppies that are about to begin their training.

And the nonprofit wants you to know there are very particular rules for naming a service or therapy dog.

These dogs are trained to help their owners turn lights on or off, pick up items from off the floor, open and close doors, as well as other daily tasks. Because these dogs have such focused jobs, their names can’t be a source of confusion, explained Joy St. Peter, the executive director of Salem-based Joys of Living Assistance Dogs.

That means the names can’t end in “o” because they sound too much like “no.” They also can’t rhyme with or sound too much like verbal cues commonly given to service dogs. That means the name “Cider” won’t work because it sounds too much like the command “side,” she said.

The dogs’ names can also only be two syllables and easy to pronounce for their owners, who may have a speech impediment, she said.

Beginning Thursday, people can visit the nonprofit’s website and cast votes for a list of names for each of the six puppies. Each vote costs $5, money that will be used to support the nonprofit. If someone has strong feelings for a name, they can vote multiple times.

“Or they can just say, ‘I want this name’ and buy it for $1,500,” said St. Peter, who founded the nonprofit in 2004 after working in foodservice.

The money will be used to support a service that’s in demand. St. Peter said that the waitlist to get a service or therapy dog is two years long.

On Tuesday morning, St. Peter loaded the soon-to-be-named puppies into kennels in the nonprofit’s van after getting checkups to make sure they didn’t have joint or other health problems.

In addition to being in good health, the dogs need to have the right temperament. Breeds with herding or protective instincts don’t make for good service dogs, she said.

“The Labs and the Golden Retrievers are just the most forgiving we can train,” she said.

Nonprofits such as Joys of Living Assistance Dogs rely on volunteers to train the dogs using positive reinforcement, she said. The dogs have to be disciplined and not distracted by other dogs or food dropped on the ground.

Some are trained to fetch medicine and help their disabled owners with other daily tasks. Others are trained to help their owners suffering from anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder, she said. These dogs are trained to calm their owners who are about to suffer a panic attack or pull their owner's bed covers off to wake them from a nightmare.

One upside of the pandemic is that more people stuck at home looking for a project has meant more volunteers for the nonprofit, said St. Peter. Typically, the nonprofit has about 15 to 20 volunteers and now has 30, she said.

With more volunteers, St. Peter Joys of Living Assistance Dogs is on track to train 40 dogs this year, a record for the nonprofit.

A pair of Golden Retriever puppies that will soon begin training with Salem-based Joys of Living Assistance Dogs to become service or therapy dogs. But first, they need names. (Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)

A Golden Retriever puppy that will soon begin training with Salem-based Joys of Living Assistance Dogs to become a service or therapy dog. But first, it needs a name. (Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)

A Golden Retriever puppy that will soon begin training with Salem-based Joys of Living Assistance Dogs to become a service or therapy dog. But first, it needs a name. (Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)

Golden Retriever puppies will soon begin training with Salem-based Joys of Living Assistance Dogs to become a service or therapy dog. But first, it needs a name. (Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)

Golden Retriever puppies will soon begin training with Salem-based Joys of Living Assistance Dogs to become a service or therapy dog. But first, it needs a name. (Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)

A Golden Retriever puppy that will soon begin training with Salem-based Joys of Living Assistance Dogs to become a service or therapy dog. But first, it needs a name. (Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)

A Golden Retriever puppy that will soon begin training with Salem-based Joys of Living Assistance Dogs to become a service or therapy dog. But first, it needs a name. (Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)

A Golden Retriever puppy that will soon begin training with Salem-based Joys of Living Assistance Dogs to become a service or therapy dog. But first, it needs a name. (Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)

 

Contact reporter Jake Thomas at 503-575-1251 or [email protected] or @jakethomas2009.

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