Puppy Raiser Betsy Dunn – A Microsoft Integral Fellows Nominee

 In News & Events

The Integral Fellows award recognizes and supports Microsoft alumni who are making meaningful differences in the daily lives of others by using their talents, time and resources to contribute to the world, whether on a local, regional, national, or global scale.  Winners receive significant financial support for their causes.  

Nominees may work with one organization or across many. Their efforts may not be glamorous, but they have created positive impact.   (Courtesy of Microsoft Alumni Foundation website.)

Puppy Raiser Betsy Dunn with Guiding Eyes dog GeneGuiding Eyes Volunteer Puppy Raiser Betsy Dunn
“In February 2008 I picked up a flier asking for volunteers to raise a puppy for Guiding Eyes for the Blind.  I stuffed it in my pocket knowing that someday the timing would be right.  In 2010, when faced with my ending retirement, I knew that I would require an activity that incited a full-time passion. So in June of 2010, I started puppy raising classes with Guiding Eyes for the Blind’s Cleveland Puppy Raiser Region.  Just two weeks after I retired that September, I was given my first puppy, Gene.  The learning curve was huge—I never had a dog before—and it required serious time and effort on my part to understand the right way to raise a puppy with a very special purpose — becoming a guide dog.

Gene lived with my husband and me from eight weeks until sixteen months old. Together, the three of us traveled to twenty-four of the lower forty-eight states logging over 10,000 miles. We shared hundreds of experiences, including standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon in a snowstorm, visiting hundreds of businesses in our daily travels, spending time in middle school classes at Gilmour Academy, going to Cleveland Indians Spring Training and regular season games in Cleveland, and many more. All of these experiences gave Gene a firm foundation for any situation he might encounter as a guide dog in the future.

Raising Gene became a labor of love; it was a privilege.  The people we met along the way were so interested in Gene’s journey from puppy to guide dog that when he was ready to enter guide dog school at Guiding Eyes in New York, I wrote a letter to over one hundred people who had a hand in our learning experiences.

Gene’s journey gave me so much more than I gave.  We met hundreds of kind and caring people who petted Gene and talked with me about puppy-raising and the mission of Guiding Eyes for the Blind.  In 2011 alone, we walked 2200 miles–and I lost forty pounds.  My high blood pressure even returned to normal after peaking just before retiring from Microsoft.  Health benefits aside, I was able to sink my teeth into an endeavor that required my passion and helped me transition from the work-a-day world of Microsoft to retirement.

I learned about Guiding Eyes for the Blind from the grassroots level: raising a puppy. That first experience spurred me to learn more about the organization and become involved on a deeper level..  There are no guide dogs without puppy raisers.”

Good luck Betsy!