by Nic Hofman
About the author: Nic Hofman is a senior in high school from Lafayette, Indiana. He enjoys playing golf and traveling the world. He plans to pursue a career in business after attending Purdue University. Nic wrote this profile in conjunction with Alexandrea Matott 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.
Sight is crucial, and life can be extremely difficult living without it. Guide dogs have long been the eyes for people who are blind or visually impaired and want to have a canine partner. These dogs have to go through years of training to assist the blind, but even before the training, they have to be raised. Puppy raisers are extraordinarily gracious people who donate their time and money to develop these puppies so they can go to training fully capable of learning. Raisers have to go through embarrassing moments, puppy meltdowns, and restless nights over the course of a year and a half, yet they seem to always come right back and do it all over again. These raisers develop an unbreakable bond with their puppies that most people don’t even share with other humans. Alexandrea Matott is a puppy raiser currently living in Buskirk, New York. She began raising puppies for Guiding Eyes for the Blind in 2014.
Alexandrea graduated from Albany Law School in May 2019 and is currently working as an assistant court attorney. She raised two puppies, one who became a guide dog (Fargo) and the other who became a brood (Vickie), as an undergraduate student, and then raised a third puppy who became a guide (Twain) while she attended law school. Alexandrea said, “Raising a puppy requires you to love that puppy enough to wake up each day and do what’s best for them, even when it may not feel like it’s best for you.” Alexandrea spent approximately a year and a half with each puppy teaching them essential skills so that they could accomplish great things in the real world. After doing so, Alexandrea returned each puppy back to Guiding Eyes, hopeful that they had the full potential to become a guide dog for a person in need.
Alexandrea has always been an animal lover. She began working at her local animal shelter when she was just 13 years old. Alexandrea has always had a desire to help animals in need. While she was looking for a college to attend, Alexandrea began to think of how lonely she would be without her beloved animals at the shelter, not to mention the animals that she fostered. She wanted a college that could accommodate her need for animals in her life. Hartwick College stood out among others, in part because of a club that they had on campus specifically for students wanting to raise puppies. The college allowed up to ten puppies to be raised on campus at a time. As anyone could imagine, Alexandrea was up to the extremely difficult challenge. This decision would prove to be a blessing in disguise for Alexandrea.
Raising a puppy in college held Alexandrea accountable during all her years in college. Having to deal with a puppy, who was likely to go crazy from time to time, could be extremely frustrating to a college student, but Alexandrea had everything under control. She had to be able to manage her time better than most of the students around her because she had the responsibility of caring for a puppy. In her mind, the puppy took priority over everything else in her life during the months of raising. Alexandrea credits her great success in college to each of the three puppies that called her mom for about a year and a half. The puppies made time management so crucial during her days in college. Alexandrea had to adapt to not living the traditional college lifestyle and adjust to staying home with a puppy. She also made many friends over the course of her raising period. Alexandrea is fortunate enough to stay in touch with all of her puppies’ handlers. This allows her to be confident that her dogs are excelling in the real world and continue to be loved.
Alexandrea had a need for animals to be in her life and that is what moved her to raise a puppy for Guiding Eyes. She also found the need to be engaged in her community and raising animals was a great way for her to give back. From being a Girl Scout when she was younger to working in the community service office on her college campus, Alexandrea has been serving others for quite some time. Alexandrea started with a desire to help others by raising for Guiding Eyes, and that turned into a need to be deeply involved. Alexandrea saw Guiding Eyes as an opportunity to constantly help others. Raising puppies for Guiding Eyes turned out to be something more than just a volunteer opportunity, it became a lifestyle.
The decision to raise puppies allowed personal growth for Alexandrea along with the puppies as well. The puppies brought Alexandrea extreme joy and brought comfort in times of sorrow. The puppies became more than just friends to Alexandrea; they became family. She learned that she can deal with loss and take on another challenge while knowing that the same heartbreaking loss awaits. To Alexandrea, puppy raising is focusing on the little goals and victories in order to reach that final goal of her sweet puppy becoming a guide dog. Alexandrea is proud to have raised two guide dogs as well as a brood who is helping produce future generations of guides – one of which was her third dog, Twain! Every dog is successful in that they make a choice at the end of their time on puppy program to change someone’s world in the best way that they know how – whether that be as a guide, a member of the breeding colony, a police K9, or a beloved pet. Alexandrea is proud that the three puppies she has raised are making a difference in peoples’ lives.
Alexandrea never gave up on her puppies during her time with them. She taught them so much more than just the skills to become a guide dog: she taught them how to love. She allowed the puppies to grow and venture out into the real world so that they, as well as their partners, could achieve great things. From the moment she received each puppy, she made a commitment to devote her life to becoming the best possible companion for these puppies. She did just that, graduating college and completing law school while raising puppies at the same time. Alexandrea is a special member of society, and she has shown what it takes to be an extraordinary contributor to this world.