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Proud to be a Puppy Raiser

by volunteer Cheryl Lawyer

Cheryl Lawyer with K9 CarlosAs puppy raisers, we do the best we can do to help these furry kids grow up to prepare for their future careers as guide dogs for the blind.  But as we all know – there are no guarantees in life.

Not all Guiding Eyes dogs become guides.  When pups go back to guide dog school for their final evaluation, some decide that being service dogs for children with autism is their thing… or maybe they’d prefer to assist someone in a wheelchair.   They may choose police work – explosives or fire detection – as their thing, or they might decide they’d like to be a family pet.  No matter their decision, there’s no doubt that they will be awesome at their jobs.

In the last ten years, I have supervised the raising of over 50 puppies.  I personally have raised three and I’m working on number four.  The last puppy was Carlos, a super special pup as I knew both his parents well; they were raised on our team by puppy raiser families that I now consider friends.  Carlos was extremely active and confident; I sometimes suspected he might not be the best candidate for guide work.

I bade him farewell as he went back to Guiding Eyes and awaited his decision.  I soon learned that Carlos chose to be an explosives detection dog in New York City – primarily working at the 9/11 Memorial site.   I was so excited for him.

One day last summer I got a phone call from his handler.  After many texts and email pictures, I was invited to come to see Carlos in December, and I could not have been welcomed more warmly by his family.  As I awaited Carlos’ arrival after work, I wondered if he would remember me after 11 months apart.   As he blasted into their home, he blew right by me to welcome Pippin, the pup that I am raising for Guiding Eyes.  After the initial excitement of meeting Pippin (priorities!), it was clear that Carlos remembered me. No surprise really.  Gosh, these are such smart dogs.

Carlos’s family was so gracious to me!  I got the opportunity to practice Carlos’ daily detection skills training…and got some smooches too.   He no longer eats from a dog bowl but must practice his skills to get his meal.  Carlos is a WILLING participant in these activities!

I had the chance to visit everywhere Carlos works in NYC, including the 9/11 Memorial Plaza.  I met all the detection dogs and their handlers, and all the NYPD officers who know Carlos.  Everyone had a wonderful story to tell me once I was introduced as his “puppy mom.”

This is a day I will never forget.  This was a day that made me proud to be a puppy raiser for Guiding Eyes – perhaps one of the most wonderful days I have ever known. While he didn’t become a guide dog, Carlos is still protecting people, an extremely important job.  I am so proud to have been a part of helping this dog be the best he can be.

Guiding Eyes Labrador K9 Carlos wearing a police hat