Before a guide dog embarks on the most important job of their life, they spend anywhere from 12 to 16 months with a puppy raiser. These raisers voluntarily open their hearts and home to a pup, building a relationship and bond with them that helps set the foundation for all the life lessons a guide dog needs to master.
One puppy raiser in particular is especially in our thoughts this month – Zachary St. Jean. Shortly after raising one of our April Guiding Eyes graduates, Hyde, Zach unexpectedly passed away.
For fourteen months, Zach spent countless hours preparing Hyde for his journey to becoming a guide dog – socializing him to new sights and sounds, taking him to weekly puppy classes, and patiently teaching him basic obedience and manners.
“Zach did a great job with Hyde,” said Regional Manager Leslie Stephens. “He could be quiet at times, but he loved to get competitive with his classmates and would show off with Hyde in class. By the end, you could always find him on the floor with Hyde in his lap.”
It is because of Zach’s dedication and commitment to working with Hyde that Hyde recently graduated from Guiding Eyes with his partner, Nancy. Now retired, Nancy enjoys spending her time crafting in her Minnesota home and is looking forward to working with her new companion. “I love his pace, his presence. He is a heavenly dog.”
In honor of Zach and Hyde, puppy raisers from Zach’s hometown region in Ohio donated toys to Guiding Eyes, as pictured here. Thank you to everyone who donated; these toys are already being put to great use.
Guiding Eyes would also like to extend our sincere condolences to Zachary’s family and friends. We are incredibly grateful for their ongoing support of our mission. We would also like to thank Zach’s sister, Megan, who continued raising Hyde after Zach passed away.