Story and photos by Carol Montana
SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY (December 16, 2014) – You could just melt from the cuteness.
Around 50 adults and children came out to the Liberty Senior Center on North Main Street on Monday, December 8, to learn about the new Puppy Raising Region in Sullivan County.
The evening provided education about how to be a Puppy Raiser courtesy of Guiding Eyes’ Puppy Raising Coordinator Nicole Guite, along with several volunteers who are raising their own puppies. But the event also allowed people to visit with several “teenager” dogs, as well as several adorable yellow lab puppies.
A Puppy Raising Region is a designated area where the dogs, who will hopefully change the life of a blind person, get their start. At eight weeks of age, puppies (usually Labradors and German Shepherds) are placed with people who will raise, socialize, feed, groom, teach basic obedience, and provide the future service dogs with love and a good home.
Somewhere around 12-18 months of age, the dogs will go to the Guiding Eyes facility for additional socialization and training.
Volunteers who wish to raise the puppies must fill out an application at www.guidingeyes.org/volunteer, and if they are accepted, they will take pre-placement classes. Once they are assigned a puppy, they must attend regularly scheduled classes.
While the puppy raisers pay for O food and toys, Guiding Eyes pays for veterinary care.
In addition to training dogs for the visually impaired, Guiding Eyes also trains service dogs to assist those with autism.
Occasionally, there are dogs who are not chosen for the Guiding Eyes program. They may enter the breeding program, become law enforcement dogs or do some other kind of service dog work with those who are deaf or paralyzed or need some other kind of assistance.
One of the joys of being a puppy raiser, said Guite, is attending the graduation ceremony where the dog is paired with the person whose life will be forever changed.
Additionally, she said that volunteers are needed, not just to raise the puppies, but also to help socialize, play with, massage and foster puppies and dogs.
Although each guide dog costs approximately $45,000 to breed, raise, train and match with a visually impaired handler, all the services are provided to the new owner free of charge.
As seen in the accompanying photos, it was obvious at the information session that “Snoopy” creator Charles Schultz had it right when he declared that “Happiness is a warm puppy.”
Guiding Eyes is a nonprofit guide dog school, operating since 1954. For more information, visit www.guidingeyes.org.
And for additional information on the Guiding Eyes’ Puppy Raising Program, call 1-866-GEB-LABS or visit www.guidingeyes.org/volunteer/puppy-raising/.
To see more photos from Guiding Eyes for the Blind Opens New Puppy Raising Region in Liberty, NY, visit The Catskill Chronicle on Zenfolio.