Lumina Gives Birth to Nine Pups Who Will Light the Way

 In News & Events

PATRICIA GAY – 06/13/2006

Lumina PuppiesLumina’s a mommy! The 18-month-old golden retriever, raised by Fred Oberchain of the Prince William, VA puppy raising region, gave birth to nine healthy and precocious puppies on Thursday, May 25, at the whelping kennel of the Guiding Eyes for the Blind breeding center in Patterson, N.Y.

The Jespersen family of Weston, who are caring for Lumnia in their home, said the new mom and pups are all doing well.

“Lumina is already back to her usual self,” Ginger Jespersen said. “We took her outside and she is retrieving balls and playing catch. She loves to flop on the grass and get a belly rub,” she added.

Although Lumina lives with the Jespersens, she and the puppies belong to Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a non-profit organization that provides professionally trained guide dogs to visually impaired individuals, giving them a sense of independence and dignity.

As a working breed dog, Lumina’s job is to help create future generations of guide dogs, and she is off to a great start. Originally a litter of 11, the final count of nine includes eight healthy males and one female.

Lumina was bred with a male Labrador named Merwin. Their puppies are called “glabs.” Golden retrievers are not usually used for guide dog breeding, but Lumina’s exceptional physical and intellectual qualities made her a top choice for the job. here was a special protocol to follow for naming the puppies. Guiding Eyes assigned the Jespersens the letter “V” to be the first letter of the name of each puppy.

The Jespersens submitted a list of potential names, which were checked by Guiding Eyes to make sure there wasn’t another living Guiding Eyes dog with the same name. Ross Jespersen’s confirmation class at the Emmanuel Episcopal Church adopted GEB as the class’s confirmation project and helped the family compile a list of V names. With Guiding Eyes’ approval, the males were named Voyager, Virgo, Voltaire, Vulcan, Vereen, Vern, Vic, and Vosco. The female was named Valentine.

Service dogs The puppies will now start their journey toward becoming potential guide or service dogs. They will stay with Lumina until they are weaned. After that, there will be a period of puppy socialization at the center. Volunteers will come to the center and play with the dogs to get them used to human interaction.

Following that, the pups will be placed with puppy-raising families, volunteers who take the puppies into their homes to continue socialization and bring the puppies periodically to training classes at the center. In the past, the Jespersen family have been puppy socializers and puppy raisers.

At about one year of age, the puppies are brought to the GEB facility in Yorktown, N.Y., and are tested to see if they are good enough to continue in the guide dog program. The test is pass or fail. Dogs that pass are trained to become guide dogs for the visually impaired. Dogs that fail may find other roles, such as service dogs with law enforcement, or may become pets.

Because a guide dog becomes a set of eyes for someone without vision, the guide dog program is highly selective. There are benchmarks and standards to be met before a dog is accepted in the final training program, and many dogs won’t make it.

After a guide dog completes training, it is assigned, free of charge, to a visually impaired person at the Yorktown facility. The dog and new master go through further training and then a graduation ceremony is held for the dog.

The Jespersens have been volunteers with GEB for several years and view their role in the program as teachers. However, when Lumina has finished having litters, the Jespersens will be allowed to keep her as a pet. Caring for a guide dog is a big commitment, but there are many ways volunteers can help, Ms. Jespersen said.

Sailor Fund One group that found a special way to help the program was Ross Jespersen’s confirmation class at Emmanuel Episcopal Church. The group held a bake sale on Mother’s Day and raised nearly $400, which it donated to a fund at Guiding Eyes called the Sailor Fund. The fund was named for a breeding dog named Sailor who sired many litters and future generations of guide dogs.

For donations of more than $200 to the fund, the donor gets a brass leaf plaque on the Sailor Fund Tree. The money is used for unfunded supplies or initiatives at the Canine Develoment Center. The confirmands’ brass leaf will say the gift is in honor of Lumina’s first litter on May 25, 2006.

Members of the class are also going to pay a visit to Lumina and her puppies in Yorktown later this week. For more information on GEB or the Sailor Fund, visit cdc.guidingeyes.org or call 1-866-GEB-LABS.

Lumina with puppies Girl holding pup Group picture near Sailor tree

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