For someone without sight, a Guiding Eyes dog is a priceless, life-changing gift providing independence, companionship, and mobility. Puppy raisers and foster volunteers come from all walks of life and include couples, families with children, young adults, and senior citizens. They all share a common desire to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
Puppy raisers Kathlyn Carroll and Michael Healy of White Plains have experienced firsthand the joy and fulfillment that comes with raising a future guide dog.
“Becoming a puppy raiser is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a college student in Georgia,” explained Carroll, who moved to White Plains after graduating and learned about Guiding Eyes while preparing for graduate school. “Michael and I were so exited about the prospect of raise a puppy to be a future guide dog – we signed up right away.”
Puppy raisers welcome 8 week-old puppies into their homes and with full support from Guiding Eyes, including training classes and free vet care. The volunteers love, nurture, and educate the puppies for a 14 to 16 month period before sending them off to their calling as a guide dog for a blind or visually impaired person.
“Our favorite part about the program is our puppy, Payson,” said Carroll. “He’s a sweet, goofy pup with big paws and a big personality, and we love having him around. It is so much fun to watch him learn and grow. We also enjoy taking Payson to puppy classes, where our instructor, Nicole, always has creative and entertaining ways to help the pups practice important skills.”
Puppy raising classes are held on Wednesday evenings at locations alternating between the Bedford Hills Community Center and the Guiding Eyes training school in Yorktown Heights. Pre-placement classes are held at the school’s Canine Development Center in Patterson.
Michelle Brier, Guiding Eyes’ director of marketing and communications, notes that, “without the extraordinary dedication of our puppy raisers and breed dog fosters, we would simply be unable to provide guide dogs to the blind and visually impaired.”
Foster volunteers in Guiding Eyes’ brood/stud program provide a permanent home for one of the organization’s breed dogs and are entrusted with their health, safety, and wellbeing. All vet care is covered. Fosters receive training in dog handling, care, and obedience. In addition to a loving home environment, foster volunteers also commit to walking their dog at least 3 miles per day.
Yorktown residents Judie and John Baumeister have always been dog lovers and knew that fostering would be a great way to teach their two young sons about service and volunteering.
“Our entire family loves Jared and everyone helps in their own way,” said Judie Baumeister. “I am a special education teacher and my husband, John, works in law enforcement. We really liked how the program worked with both of our professional fields.”
The dogs in Guiding Eyes’ breeding program represent the future of the organization and only the very best are selected to produce subsequent generations of guide dogs. Most breed dogs are between the ages of 16 to 20 months old when placed in a foster home. They are housebroken and have had basic obedience training, but have not been trained as guide dogs. When the time comes for a brood or stud to retire, fosters have the first opportunity to adopt.
“Guiding Eyes is such a fantastic community,” Baumeister continued. “We have become friends with Jared’s puppy raiser and also other fosters. Some have kids the same age, so when we get the kids together, we get the dogs together too!”
While the puppy raising program is open to volunteers down the east coast, fostering is a special opportunity available only to those who live within an hour and a half of Guiding Eyes’ Canine Development Center in Patterson. This is because the organization’s breed dogs must be brought in periodically for reproduction, healthcare-related visits, and assessments.
“We love knowing that Jared is more than just a pet,” said Baumeister. “Some of his pups will grow up to become the eyes of a person without sight. That alone is such a great feeling and makes it all worthwhile.”
To learn more about Guiding Eyes' puppy raising or brood/stud programs, call 1-866-GEB-LABS. Additional information is available online at www.guidingeyes.org/volunteer/puppy-raising/
(puppy raising) orwww.guidingeyes.org/volunteer/brood-stud-program/
(foster volunteering). Those interested in becoming a puppy raiser may contact Nicole Guite, regional manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org
or (845) 230-6406 to reserve a place at the next pre-placement class.
Updated 4:26 pm, July 9, 2018