Raising Puppies from the Heart
by Stevie Coffing
About the author: Stevie Coffing is a recent high school graduate from Lafayette, Indiana. He enjoys playing football and running track. He plans to pursue a career in the medical field after attending Wabash College. Stevie wrote this profile in conjunction with Aimee Muller as an assignment in a senior composition class taught by Kathy Nimmer, a Guiding Eyes graduate who is partnered with Nacho, a yellow lab guide dog.
Raising guide dogs is a demanding challenge that is essential to the well-being of many people who are visually impaired. Those who are blind often use guide dogs in order to work and navigate safely. These guide dogs do not start off their life being capable of such a task. In fact, when they are born they are not capable of doing much of anything without becoming distracted. They must first be trained so that they can be responsive to the person who partners with them. If you can think about how difficult it is to train a house pet, imagine how much harder it is to train one that has to guide you! People such as Aimee Muller volunteer their time to raise potential guide dogs long before the pups are ready to do the job. Aimee raises puppies for Guiding Eyes for the Blind and teaches them the basic commands that they need to know in order for them to begin the harness training. She builds the foundation of the dogs’ knowledge. Raising these dogs is a rewarding experience. It has been a life-changing commitment for Aimee Muller.
Aimee originally started raising puppies because she knew two individuals who are visually impaired. She has a niece who lost her central vision and a stepson who lost his peripheral vision along with the ability to drive. Instead of simply grieving their situations, Aimee decided to make a positive contribution to society. She had the integrity and drive to help people who need assistance. She thought that raising puppies was one relatively easy way to help people like her niece and stepson. Aimee herself stated, “I knew I could not change the course of their vision loss, but I could help by being part of the volunteer program that ‘supplies’ ready pups for the harness training program in case they ever needed it, which they have not yet.” Raising puppies is an impressive way to contribute. She volunteers her own time and money to do something that needs to be done.
Aimee began her puppy raising journey through Guiding Eyes for the Blind. Guiding Eyes connects people who want to raise dogs with puppies to train. The organization breeds the dogs so that they can be the right type and have the intelligence and physical ability in order to guide. They must make sure that the dogs have many traits that enable them to do their job well. Some of these characteristics include their health, working well in a partnership, being able to stay calm, and having the ability to not be distracted by everyday things. Obviously, some of these traits are up to the puppy raisers to teach. But, having the correct breed of dog will help. For example, a Chihuahua would be far from ideal for a guide dog! After the dogs are born, they go through basic exposures to social situations with people and other dogs. After that, they go to the volunteer puppy raisers. This is what Aimee does. Guiding Eyes for the Blind will tell the puppy raisers what they need to teach them and what they need to do in order for them to be capable of becoming a guide dog.
Aimee has learned excellent skills that one needs in order to train dogs. Some of these skills include small things, like how to give them treats and when she is giving them too many. She has also learned what commands they need to master before they are ready to be given back to Guiding Eyes for the Blind. She has certainly done an outstanding job of doing what needs to be done in order to help the dogs in the future. She has raised five dogs for Guiding Eyes. These dogs all had good careers, some in guiding and some otherwise including one that became a bomb-sniffing K9.
The five dogs Aimee raised were all quite different from each other. Her first was the one who became a bomb sniffer. This dog actually started out as a normal guide dog. He guided for a blind man, but the dog lost focus with his big-city lifestyle and began getting distracted. After about 10 months, he became a “career change” dog and put his nose to work with the police. She then raised two more dogs, each of whom is actively guiding now. Her fourth dog changed up the pattern because he is a shepherd while most Guiding Eyes dogs are labs. Aimee said there are a lot of different strengths that each dog breed brings. She said shepherds are typically “chattier” and “overly protective” of who they guide. Do not mistake “overly protective” for unfriendly, though; all of these dogs are still very kind. However, different traits work better in different situations. For example, someone working in a business environment would not want their dog to be loud, as other people around them also need to do work. But, another person may want a dog that protects them more than a lab. Training the dogs has certainly been a fantastic, rewarding journey for Aimee. She now has a good grasp on what to do in order to help the dogs get to their next stage in life, no matter their personality.
As of right now, Aimee is in the process of training her sixth puppy. Her life has certainly taken a positive turn since she began raising puppies. Having puppies in the house is a great experience because of their loving nature. The dogs also amaze her with what they can do once they grow up and start guiding. Aimee emphasized numerous times that she “LOVES” puppies, so one can imagine that she enjoys life now more than ever!
Overall, Aimee’s puppy raising journey has been beneficial for everyone. She started raising for the right reason. She is clearly a woman who works hard and has enough integrity to do what needs to be done in order to help others. She has done a great job raising five wonderful puppies in order to support other people, no matter what their careers ended up being. She likes to say that the puppies “choose” their careers rather than just being forced into them. Now that she is on her sixth raise, she is certainly happy with what she has already contributed and will continue to contribute to the Guiding Eyes for the Blind program. Aimee has helped many individuals through her work and has done a wonderful job helping improve society overall through her volunteer contributions.