Nursing Side Gigs: Raising Puppies for Canine Companions for Independence

Nursing Side Gigs: Raising Puppies for Canine Companions for Independence

This is part of a monthly series about side gigs—nurses with interesting side jobs or hobbies. This month, we spotlight a volunteer puppy raiser.


In 2017, Catherine Burger, BSN, MSOL, RN, NEA-BC, now a Media & Brand Specialist for RegisteredNursing.org, was in the midst of building her own home-based business after having retired from corporate nursing. Along with her husband and their youngest son, Burger had moved from Sacramento to San Diego, California, and she was looking for a volunteer opportunity.

“I kept seeing puppies with yellow vests in my area,” recalls Burger. “We had lost our dog several years prior, and it took many years before I was ready for another dog. I told my family that I believed we were meant to raise a service puppy, so we looked into it more.”

Burger had friends already involved with Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), so she and her family were able to talk with them and ask lots of questions. After completing an online application, as well as a home visit by a CCI staff member, they were approved and placed on a list to receive a nine-week-old puppy to raise.

“Canine Companions for Independence, a nonprofit organization, was founded in 1975 to provide expertly trained service dogs to enhance the lives of people with disabilities,” explains Burger. “These dogs are not just providing help with daily living by being the arms, legs, and ears of their partners, but also open to opportunities to live with greater independence and confidence.”

CCI provides these dogs to adults, children, veterans, and professionals, depending on their needs. The breeds used are yellow and black Labradors, Golden Retrievers, and mixes of these two breeds. “Most service-dog programs charge up to $40,000 for a trained assistance dog. Through volunteer puppy raisers like us, plus donations and sponsors, CCI is able to provide the trained dogs at no cost to the recipients,” says Burger.

When they started working with CCI, Burger and her family received a lot of training. “CCI provides mentoring, guidebooks, and many areas offer weekly training classes. As a puppy raiser for CCI, you commit to attending at least two puppy-training classes each week. There are professional dog trainers available for consult as needed if the puppy has any specific issues,” says Burger. “It is an extremely supportive program and community of puppy raisers. For example, we watch each other’s puppies when anyone is traveling.”

Burger and her family are raising their second puppy for CCI. Their first puppy, Nancy VI, is now a Change of Career (COC) dog, and they adopted her. Unfortunately, Nancy wasn’t able to get over having car anxiety. “We worked closely with the professional trainers to try to break her of the panting, drooling, and stiff body language,” says Burger. “While we were thrilled to adopt Nancy as our own COC dog, we were disappointed that she was not able to move into professional training to offer help and hope to someone in need.”

As puppy raisers, Burger and her family volunteer to provide everything for the puppy for the first 10 months of its life. Then they turn the puppy in for professional training. “We pay for the food, vet bills, vaccines, anything the puppy needs,” says Burger. “We are responsible to teach around 30 commands to the puppies at home — which are modeled through puppy class sessions — such as sit, down, back, side, heel, up, car, off, etc. Along with this training, our most important role is to socialize the puppies in public to get them ready to handle numerous situations in order for them to provide the most support to their future handler. Puppy class also provides field trips for the puppies to experience trains, buses, and even practice with getting through TSA and onto an airplane. The more confidence through varied experiences we can provide to the puppy, the more prepared they are for professional training and better prepared to be a strong assistance dog.”

Although they give so much to CCI and the community through raising puppies, Burger says that she and her family get a lot back as well. One of the best experiences has been seeing how the lives of those who receive dogs from CCI are radically changed. “Parents of an autistic child who, after receiving a dog for their son, were able to sleep through the night for the first time in 8 years because having the dog in bed gave him so much comfort,” says Burger. “I have also participated several times at Paloma Valley High School’s ‘Paws for Finals,’ where puppy raisers in the area bring their puppies to the school during finals. The kids are able to come pet and love on the dogs to minimize their stress. It brings tears to my eyes every time when I see a group of the popular kids, the geeky kids, the Emo kids, the shy kids, and the athletes all sitting around with their hands on my puppy, sharing dog stories together. It is also interesting that the puppies are absolutely exhausted after this stress-absorbing time with the kids!

“We are very proud to be associated with such an organization,” says Burger.

Nursing Side Gigs: Boxing Coach

Nursing Side Gigs: Boxing Coach

This is part of a monthly series about side gigs—nurses with interesting side jobs or hobbies. This month, we spotlight a boxing coach.


By day, Cindy Bohmont, RN, SEN, Med, CCRN, CSD, works as a staff nurse in the Cardiovascular Surgical Intensive Care Unit at Mercy Hospital in Springfield, Missouri. She’s worked at Mercy for 48 years, and during that time, she’s worked PRN in Coronary ICU, Pediatric ICU, Medical ICU, Neurotrauma ICU, and Mercy Home Health Care. For five years, she even taught at St. John’s School of Nursing.

In her free time, though, Bohmont does something that you might never expect from a nurse: she officiates amateur boxing matches and is moving into the professional field to work as an official for professional fights.

Boxing coach Cindy Bohmont

About 25 years ago, Bohmont developed her interest in boxing after two of her sons got into a fight on their ranch. When he was in the Marines, her husband boxed, and he suggested that they find a gym for the boys to learn boxing.

“We found a boxing program at the Boys and Girls Club in Springfield, Missouri,” says Bohmont. “And I was hooked!”

Bohmont says that all five of her sons as well as her youngest daughter became involved in boxing, although none of them ever went pro.

While Bohmont began as a supportive mom, attending her kids’ matches, she soon learned enough to become an amateur official and began judging boxing tournaments all across the state. She also began coaching at the club. “I discovered that the sport of boxing is not just a legal fight. It’s a very complicated sport—[boxers are] trying to land scoring punches while at the same time protecting themselves,” explains Bohmont. “The most important things I taught were integrity, fair play, good nutrition, good sleeping habits, believing in yourself, generally taking care of your body and mind, and no drugs, smoking, or alcohol.”

Because, Bohmont says, boxing is an individual sport, whatever athletes put into it—in terms of training and the like—that’s what they get out of it.

Although some may think that it’s counteractive for a nurse to coach a sport where athletes get injured, Bohmont says that “If you listen to the news, you will rarely hear of a boxing injury. Everyone knows someone with a tennis-elbow, football knee, etc. Most boxers are in tremendous shape and are very skilled at defensive maneuvers.”

Boxing Coach Cindy Bohmont

Over the years, Bohmont has won a number of awards, including the Outstanding Official of the National Junior Golden Gloves Tournament in Mesquite, Nevada as well as the Greater Kansas City Golden Gloves Coach of the Year. “Those are major accomplishments when you consider this is generally a male domain that I’ve jumped into,” Bohmont says.

Considering that coaching boxing can be tough on the coach’s joints (Bohmont would hold practice pads and mitts for up to 30 kids to hit each night for four nights a week over 20 years), she has decided to focus on moving into the professional field of boxing and aspires to be an official for pro fights.

That’s just one reason why Bohmont has begun working one week a month in the ICU at St. Rose Hospital in Las Vegas, Nevada, as the area holds tons of professional boxing matches.

“It has been difficult stepping back a little from coaching. Then I get an email or see a Facebook posting from one of my former boxers with a new aspect of their lives that I had a hand in guiding them toward,” says Bohmont. “It’s so good for my soul to be able to work with healthy, thriving young men and women after caring for the sickest of the sick in the intensive care unit. It keeps me emotionally healthy and balanced.”

Nursing Side Gigs: Healthcare 911

Nursing Side Gigs: Healthcare 911

This is part of a monthly series about side gigs—nurses with interesting side jobs or hobbies. This month, we spotlight the host of Healthcare 911.


For the last four decades, Gail Trauco, RN, BSN-OCN, a grief mediator as well as the CEO of The PharmaKon LLC and Front Porch Therapy in Atlanta, Georgia, has worked in health care as a nurse and patient advocate. In 2015, though, she began to incorporate appearances on television on morning news and talk shows nationwide into her advocacy work.

Gail Trauco, RN, BSN-OCN

By the end of 2016, Trauco says that she had appeared on more than 60 morning news and talk shows across the country including ABC, CBS, the CW, FOX, and NBC.

That’s where she came up with the idea for Healthcare 911—three- to six-minute segments that take a look at specific health conditions and related solutions. Because of her longtime association with leading hospitals, university medical programs, and health care providers, Trauco says that she is uniquely qualified to bring this information to viewers.

Trauco writes and oversees the production of all of these segments, which now reach as many as 145 million homes in 210 cities nationwide. Viewers can see Healthcare 911 on its weekly spot on The Daily Flash TV show.

In 2019, Healthcare 911 won a Bronze Telly Award for Social Awareness, showing that it’s making a difference says Trauco.

Trauco has helped more than 5,000 families through health challenges. “My exposure to innovative treatments and continued involvement in clinical research allows me to provide a 360-degree view of what’s available in health care today,” she says.

Healthcare 911 features medical professionals as well as leading-edge healing protocols that can help millions of Americans. Guests on the segments represent various health care areas—from leading physicians and clinical trial experts to innovative product inventors and pharmaceutical companies.

“Healthcare 911 viewers will feel empowered to help themselves or a loved one more forward with new health care options and treatment,” says Trauco. “Every topic that will be covered on Healthcare 911 is something that I have learned as a nurse. My approach to patient advocacy comes from over 40 years of direct patient experience—from my time as an oncology nurse to present day, working with some or the world’s leading health care providers and medical experts.”

Nursing Side Gigs: Financial Blogger

Nursing Side Gigs: Financial Blogger

This is the first of a monthly feature about interesting side gigs or hobbies that nurses do outside of their full-time jobs.

By day, Lauren Mochizuki, RN, BSN, has been an ER nurse for more than a decade. But at night and during free time, she’s a successful financial blogger.

About eight years ago, Mochizuki began blogging about finances because she and her husband were tired of being in debt. She began writing her first blog, NurseFrugal.com, to document and share their journey about becoming debt-free. They paid off $266,000.

You read that correctly — $266,000 of debt.  

After Mochizuki became debt free, she took a break from blogging because she and her husband had started their family. Last year, she began blogging again at CasaMochi.com so that she could inspire others to live a great life on a budget. 

“What I love most about blogging is similar to nursing: with both professions I have the chance to connect with others and make a positive difference,” says Mochizuki about her side gig.  

Mochizuki says that according to the Federal Reserve Board, 40% of Americans can’t cover a $400 emergency expense, and less than 40% of working Americans feel that they are on track for retirement. Because of this, she says that her goal “is to help others change the way they collectively think about money, how to spend their money, and save — so that they can enjoy life, and simultaneously be good stewards of their money.” About every other week, Mochizuki publishes a new article on finances.

“I feel like my nursing job and blogging complement each other. With nursing, I have learned how to be personable and to apply interventions to help my patients feel better. My nursing career has directly affected my blog because it has shaped me into a caring and problem-solving person that I am today,” says Mochizuki.

“The greatest reward of blogging, is receiving responses from individuals that I have made an impact to their lives. I feel incredibly fulfilled when I inspire someone to become debt free, and introduce them to a step-by-step guide on how to achieve this goal,” says Mochizuki. “Creating a community of like-minded people has also been another reward of blogging. I started the #debtfreecollective hashtag, and it’s been so fun to see all of the accomplishments and real-life issues that come up during one’s debt-free journey.”  

“I am a firm believer that anyone can achieve financial freedom if you are willing to work for it,” says Mochizuki. “There were many times when I doubted if my husband and I could pay off $266,000 of debt, but after consistently implementing everything we learned about money, we did it!” 

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