Nonprofit invites local residents to raise a future guide dog
SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY (November 7, 2014) – Guiding Eyes for the Blind, known around the globe as one of the foremost guide dog schools, has announced the opening of its newest puppy raising region in Sullivan County. The nonprofit is inviting residents to open their homes and hearts in this rare volunteer opportunity to raise a future guide dog puppy. An open house will be held on Monday, December 8 from 6:00-7:30 p.m. at the Liberty Senior Center in Liberty, NY.
For someone without sight, a Guiding Eyes dog is a priceless, life-changing gift providing independence, companionship and mobility. Guiding Eyes puppy raisers come from all walks of life and include couples, families with children, young adults and senior citizens. The volunteers welcome eight week-old puppies into their homes and teach them basic obedience and house manners and provide numerous socialization opportunities. They receive full support from the nonprofit, including training classes and free vet care. Ultimately they send the pups off to their calling as guide dogs for men or women who are blind or visually impaired.
Liberty resident Barbara Ward-Blank has experienced firsthand the joy and fulfillment that comes with raising a future guide dog. “There is so much about Guiding Eyes that I love,” says Ward-Blank, who is currently raising Thea, a seven month-old German shepherd, with the help of her husband, Mitch, and children, Jenna and Ean. “It is an honor to play a small part in the life of this wonderful puppy who will eventually give someone in need the gift of independence in their life.”
At the open house event, prospective volunteers will have the opportunity to learn more about the program, meet some very special pups and witness firsthand the power of Guiding Eyes’ mission. Those wishing to move forward and become puppy raisers will be invited to attend an orientation series on January 5, 12 and 26. Potential raisers must attend all three classes.
“Without the extraordinary dedication of our puppy raisers, we would simply be unable to provide guide dogs to people who are blind or visually impaired,” said Michelle Brier, Guiding Eyes’ Director of Marketing and Communications.
Volunteers are always invited to attend the graduation ceremony of the dog that they helped to raise, which typically commences approximately six months after sending the puppy back to Guiding Eyes for formal training. It’s during this celebration that the raisers have the opportunity to meet the dog’s new partner and truly understand the impact that a guide dog has in the life of a person with vision loss.
“You definitely get attached to each puppy you raise, but knowing that this sweet dog is going to make someone’s entire life easier makes it worth it," said Ward-Blank. "When we’re ready, we can start all over again and watch with pride as that puppy goes on to make a real difference. How could I not want to be part of this special program over and over?"
Like more than sixty percent of Guiding Eyes’ puppy raisers, Barbara Ward-Blank and her family are repeat raisers. The family’s first two pups, Guiding Eyes Topaz and Gracie, have both gone on to become guide dogs. Ward-Blank is also a permanent foster to Guiding Eyes brood dog Kayla.
The Guiding Eyes Puppy Raising Program is comprised of more than 400 volunteers from Maine to North Carolina. Some already have forever pets of their own, while others commit to raising guide dogs as a way to give back. Raisers live in urban, suburban, and rural areas, in apartments, townhomes, and single-family residences. No matter the circumstance, all puppy raisers agree that the program is emotionally rewarding in a multitude of ways.
The Liberty Senior Center is located at 119 North Main Street in Liberty. To RSVP for the open house or to learn more about the Sullivan puppy raising region, contact Nicole Guite at 845-230-6406 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For additional information on Guiding Eyes’ Puppy Raising Program, call 1-866-GEB-LABS or visit www.guidingeyes.org/volunteer/puppy-raising/.