by Nick Matson
About the author: Nick Matson is a senior in high school from Fowler, Indiana. He enjoys playing basketball and always being positive. He plans to pursue a career in Engineering after attending Purdue University. Nick wrote this profile in conjunction with Jana Blue 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.
Jana Blue is retired and travels a lot from Richmond, Virginia to New Smyrna Beach, Florida, where she has a beach house that has been in her family for years. After her sons grew up and moved out of the house, she was missing the joy of having a young life in the house to raise. Now, after she closed her restaurant and retired from work, she has found one. Because of her desire to raise and nurture a young life, Jana became a puppy raiser.
When her two sons left home to work towards their careers, Jana felt like she was missing something in her life, and that aspect was a young life to influence. Jana missed the times of helping her boys do things around the house and teaching them lessons at home. This feeling of helping someone else had made her feel complete. Jana decided to visit a volunteer fair to possibly find something that would fill this missing aspect of her life. When she saw the booth for the Guiding Eyes Program, it automatically drew her attention. Guiding Eyes for the Blind is a program that breeds dogs who are then given to a certain person or family who applies to be a trainee. Once home trained, these dogs are given back to the program to finish training to be a guide dog. Therefore, the Guiding Eyes program and the puppy raiser have to collaborate very effectively to train a puppy well. The table they had was the Guiding Eyes Richmond Region and there was a dog from the program there as well. Jana said, “The volunteer fair was at a veterans’ hospital and I saw the way the veterans who were there for treatment reacted to the dog’s presence. Many of them talked about wanting to get a therapy dog or how much their pet dog had helped them through tough times”. She expressed how her son is in the US Army, so the reactions of the veterans really touched her. They were enthralled by the dogs. Initially, Jana had been in search of a program that would provide dogs specifically to veterans. She searched online, but there wasn’t a program for veterans in her area. However, a program for service dogs to the blind is something that captured her interest. As a result, she found a puppy raising program in Richmond which was affiliated with Guiding Eyes for the Blind and decided this program was the best for what she desired.
Being a puppy raiser, Jana had to learn things that she never would have learned without a puppy. Including situations that she never would have known how to handle before raising puppies. For instance, if the puppy wasn’t learning something correctly, despite continuous effort from Jana, most of the problems could also be fixed at the school when she gives the puppies back. She also talked about the learning curve of raising a puppy. When learning something, there is always a learning curve, but this one is distinct. In most other areas, there is already a perceived idea or opinion, while on the other hand, starting puppy raising is a clean slate with little to no knowledge of the topic. The only way to learn is by experiencing this challenge. Another obstacle is that every puppy brings a different test. For instance, one puppy might have trouble learning commands and excel at the behavioral end, but the next puppy that is raised could be good at listening to commands and perform poorly when taken to the school. This brings an always-changing challenge to the hands of the raiser.
Another effect of raising puppies for Guiding Eyes for the Blind is that your daily activities transition depending on what needs to be done that day to accommodate the puppy. When one starts training a puppy, it’s not noticeable at first but the puppy is omnipresent. Jana began raising puppies when she was retired so this didn’t affect her work, but the ventures she involved herself in changed. With the puppy, she enjoys taking walks on the beach and hikes on trails. Jana stated that, when she is living in Richmond, she and her husband are located near the James River which has many parks and nature areas for the puppies and Jana to explore. This is challenging for some people, getting out of their daily routine and trying something new. Having a puppy to care for every day brings new adventures and experiences that are so impactful. Also, since Jana travels from house to house, this brings a new challenge in itself. When Jana and her husband travel from one state to the other, they have to take the puppy. Many people know that animals and travel are not always the best combination, but Jana says that all of the puppies she has raised have traveled very well.
With each puppy Jana has raised, the process has simplified. Ms. Blue expressed, “It has gotten easier because with each puppy I have learned a little more about dog behavior and about how to train. I know more now about what to expect of the pups at different ages and how to respond to a variety of challenging issues that you don’t even know to ask about until you experience it”. Jana also is more relaxed now than she was when she first started puppy raising. She realizes that the puppies are very smart and learn quickly. Also, she has learned that, if she does something wrong and the puppies learn something the wrong way, it can be corrected by a more experienced trainer when the puppies attend the school. She has also been very optimistic on her outlook of giving the puppies back to the school for greater training and becoming guide dogs. Jana explains that the process of giving the puppies back is not necessarily difficult for her because she knows that these puppies are going to learn more and grow into something bigger, and greatly affect a chapter in someone’s life. She raised her children on the same principles as giving the guide dogs back. She raised her kids to grow, love to learn, and go make a difference in something that really matters in the world. Her outlook on raising young and influencing her kin is beautiful.
Jana Blue was brought into puppy raising by an emotion of missing her young kids and seeing how much positivity guide dogs have brought into the world. As a result, she has learned many lessons from these sweet animals and she has been given amazing opportunities throughout her time of training. With every puppy she raises, she is affecting another human greatly in an amazing way. From how she has raised her kids, to now how she is raising her pups, the reputation she has created is outstanding and Jana alone is responsible for bringing massive amounts of kindness and positivity into the world.