“It’s becoming part of something greater than ourselves.”
Meet volunteer puppy raiser Nina Scribner
Did you know that before a Guiding Eyes dog even begins training, nearly 150 volunteers will touch his or her young life? Some of the most dedicated volunteers are our puppy raisers, who put in countless hours socializing the puppies and teaching them manners.
Nina Scribner has been a volunteer puppy raiser with Guiding Eyes for the Blind for 33 years. But after all those years and raising more than 20 dogs, the memory of her first dog’s graduation ceremony is still vivid.
“It was so hard,” Nina recalls. “At the end , Alice, the woman who was paired with Sunshine, was weeping. I wondered why she was weeping because I was the one who was having to give up the dog! Later she told me her last guide dog had died of cancer at four years old. I understood. Nothing could replace her last dog, but it ended up being a wonderful relationship with Sunshine. I just thought to myself, ‘I’m in it for life.’ ”
Nina came to us after seeing an ad on public television for Guiding Eyes. Before working with the puppies, she had a career as a teacher, including special education classes, although she knew little about blindness. She sees similarities between her work as a teacher and as a puppy raiser.
“It’s about looking at the puppy’s fear, lack of confidence, or overconfidence, and trying to figure out what’s going on with them and what they’re telling us,” Nina explains. “We’re looking at the behavior with the goal of where we want to go. That’s what I believed in so wholeheartedly with kids, too.”
She still loves coming to graduation, even though it’s a five-hour drive round trip. “My children laugh about that,” Nina says. “It’s more exciting to see my dogs graduate than it was to see my kids graduate. Nothing can touch the image of that dog you knew so well sitting up there with a blind person. Being with Guiding Eyes has been such a growing, life-changing experience.”
In fact, for Nina, raising future guide dogs is deeply meaningful. “It’s even beyond helping others,” she explains. “It’s living in a community that is vibrant and nurturing. It’s becoming part of something greater than ourselves. And Guiding Eyes really listens to us. It means so much to me. I’m deeply grateful to all the people who give from their skills and time, even if they don’t have the means to give money. I know Guiding Eyes depends on both kinds of donors.”
If you’d like to learn more about puppy raising, check out our webpage here. If you’re not able to raise puppies, there are plenty of other volunteer opportunities to consider. We’d love to see you!