My family has been raising Seeing Eye Puppies since I was a sophomore in high school. It started out as my graduation project, but we enjoyed it so much that we decided to continue to be part of the program. Since then, we have raised three puppies for the Seeing Eye and currently have our fourth. For those of you that don’t know, the Seeing Eye is an organization located in Morristown, New Jersey that provides guide dogs for the blind and visually impaired. The Seeing Eye breeds, raises, and trains all of their dogs.
As a puppy raiser, I am responsible for raising the puppy about for the first year to year and a half of it’s life. The puppy is brought to the puppy raiser’s house when he or she is about 7 weeks old and will stay with that family until he or she is between a year and a year and a half. During that time, the puppy raisers have to teach the puppy basic commands such as sit, stay (actually called “rest” for The Seeing Eye), come; potty train the puppy; get the puppy used to society; and give it lots of love. Probably the most important job of those four is the exposure to society. It is so crucial to get the puppy acclimated to everything that he or she is going to be around for the rest of his or her life. I always try to take my puppies out as much as I possibly can so they get used to all sorts of people, animals, sounds, smells, and even textures.
After being with the puppy raisers, the puppy goes back to The Seeing Eye and does four months of intense training to become a Seeing Eye Dog. They learn truly incredible things. When the puppy is ready for his or her final test, the puppy raiser is invited to go to Morristown and watch. The first time I went, I was utterly amazed by what my puppy learned to do in such a short amount of time. If the puppy makes it through all of the training and the test, it’s time to be paired up with a blind person and be their companion and guide.
While it is hard to give the puppy up after having him or her for a while and bonding with him or her, it is totally worth it. Knowing that you are doing something to completely change someone else’s life and give them freedoms they otherwise wouldn’t have is very humbling and gratifying.
This is my current Seeing Eye puppy, Checkers. He is a five and a half month old long-haired German Shepherd. The picture below was taken about two weeks ago when I took him to the gym. He was very well behaved and curious about everything. Since then, we’ve gone elsewhere with a lot of success.
Since he’s been so good lately, I decided to take him to school with me yesterday. My concrete class was cancelled, so he wouldn’t have to sit through a lecture during which he would probably be antsy and whiny. I only had my architecture studio, so I figured it would be a good test run…and it was! I was really excited, and Checkers had such a great time at school.
When we first got there he was naturally curious of everything. Once he investigated and tried crawling beneath desks enough for his liking, he sat there quietly and didn’t cause any problems. Of course, everyone in my class loved having him there. My classmate even said that he should be the mascot of the studio. #lehigharchitecturemascot When we walked through a crowd of people, he looked around at everyone and wanted to say “hi,” but he never tried to run up to anyone and kept walking with me. (Good boy!) We were in the computer lab for part of class, and when we left, I heard some people say that they didn’t even know there was a dog there. He still likes to whine a bit when he’s bored, but I hope to be able to take him back to school and sit through a lecture soon! It’s definitely safe to say that Checkers loved visiting Lehigh!
If you have any questions about Checkers, The Seeing Eye, or anything else, as always, feel free to leave a comment or check out The Seeing Eye’s website: http://www.seeingeye.org/