I was a 14 year old girl in eighth grade, getting ready to enter high school, when a school shooting happened at Chardon High School on February 27, 2012. Chardon was blessed with love and support from all over the United States after the tragedy. Therapy dogs came to school every day for months and helped the students in Chardon cope during this time. This was when I knew I wanted to help someone with service dogs.
I started looking into projects for my Girl Scout Gold Award; the highest award in Girl Scouting. I wanted to do something with dogs because of the way that the therapy dogs helped me after the twenty-seventh. After seeing a Guiding Eyes poster in a local pet store, I went home and visited the Guiding Eyes website. There, I read all about the puppy raising program and I fell in love with it. I quickly made arrangements to visit a local puppy class and observe; I was then convinced this was the perfect project for me, as I loved it even more. While waiting for my puppy I took a few more classes and practiced with other raisers’ puppies. Six weeks later I got my first puppy, Nash, on April 30, 2013, and he changed my life forever.
We went everywhere together. I took him to football games, the mall, concerts, Girl Scout events, and swim meets. We loved going to our local schools and talking about Guiding Eyes. My favorite moment with Nash was when Nash and I were in Walmart and a young girl walked up to me and asked if she could pet him. I was in her classroom earlier that year with Nash and she remembered what to do when she saw a service dog. She knew that if it is in a harness you should ignore it, but if the puppy is in training, you can ask to pet him. Having taught that one girl what to do when she saw the service dog made me feel like I had made a difference. I talked to over 1,000 people at different events about guide dogs and service dogs for my Girl Scout Gold award.
In August of 2014, Nash went in for training (IFT) at Guiding Eyes Training Center to become a guide dog. He was very successful and graduated with his partner Alice, in February 2015. What a wonderful day it was watching Nash take Alice carefully up a flight of stairs and lay at her feet, as we ate graduation cake and chatted about Nash’s puppyhood. I miss Nash but I know he is making a difference in Alice’s life.
I got my next puppy in September of 2014 and named him Topper in honor of the people who helped Chardon High School Hilltoppers during our time of need. The Lubrizol Corporation and Lottie Martinko helped me raise the money to name him. Everyone at Chardon High School loves Topper and he is always making people smile with his goofy personality. My classmates are only too happy to help me socialize Topper. He is eight months old now and is doing a great job mastering his skills so he can become a guide dog. He will be spending the fall attending Hilltopper Football games and watching me dance on the field. #Topperup
Working with the wonderful people that are Guiding Eyes volunteers and staff helped make me the strong confident person I am today. I am forever grateful to Guiding Eyes for giving me the opportunity to “Raise a puppy… change a life”. Who knew that the life that would change would be mine?
Megan is a junior at Chardon High School, a member of student council, a Topperette, and a member of the varsity swim team. Megan also plays bassoon for Cleveland Youth Wind Symphony, lifeguards and teaches swimming at the Local Y, Vice President of Totally Dog 4H Club and is a Girl Scout. She plans to pursue a career in teaching children who are visually impaired.