I Could Never Give Him Up
At the end of the year, I threw out a post on social media asking folks to list one thing they are proud of in 2016. Really awesome answers and I hope it gets the wheels turning for 2017 accomplishments, too!
One respondent said she was proud of raising a puppy for the Seeing Eye. I’m proud of her, too…and so, so grateful. So, as I am actively training with my 4th Seeing Eye dog, I figured this would be a good time to share a little info about the puppy raising process. And, trust me, I’m the recipient of a trained Seeing Eye dog, not a puppy raiser. I.E., this is a general overview, not the gospel truth.
The Seeing Eye (www.SeeingEye.org) has their own breeding farm. When people ask how long it takes to train a dog, the quick answer is birth to two years. But, it’s actually much longer. Diseases and conditions that pure bred dogs are prone to have been bred out of the bloodlines for years. Maybe decades. This means that dogs, generations and generations ago, were helping create the best dogs today. Quality, people, quality.
Once a puppy is weaned from his mother (I’ll use the pronoun “his” just b/c all my dogs have been male), the puppy is placed with a puppy raiser. These are often kids in 4-H and other civic clubs that take on the puppies as a project. Dasher, my first dog, was adopted by a retired couple in Pennsylvania who lived on a farm. Puppy raisers spend the next 18 months or so socializing the dogs and working on obedience. At the end of that time frame, the puppy comes back to the Seeing Eye campus where he then learns to guide: left and right, stopping for steps, maneuvering around obstacles, etc. The puppy raising individual or family always has the option to come to the Seeing Eye in Morristown to shadow the new Seeing Eye dog handler (i.e., me), and see the puppy they raised doing the job for which he was trained. I can only imagine the excitement and pride a puppy raiser must feel when seeing their hard work pay off
When I explain this process to people, I often get the statement, “I’d love to raise a puppy…but I could never give him up!” Understood! I don’t think I could do it, either!
This is why I’m so, so proud when I learn of puppy raisers. Those of you who do this work to benefit the lives of people who are blind are some of my heroes. You go through the chewing stage, the whining stage, the late nights and early mornings to get the dogs on an eating and “parking” schedule (“park” is a nice way of saying peeing and pooping.) Then, you hand the dog back over to the Seeing Eye with the full knowledge that you may only ever see that dog once again…the day you shadow the dog and his master around Morristown. That, faithful readers who are puppy raisers, is commitment and sacrifice and I cannot thank you enough.