Raising a Difference
by Jafet Gonzalez
About the author: Jafet Gonzalez is a recent high school graduate from West Lafayette, Indiana. He enjoys hanging out with his friends and watching new TV shows. He plans to pursue a career in animation after attending Ball State University. Jafet wrote this profile in conjunction with Kim Delfing 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.
While Kim Delfing enjoys the little things in life such as reading novels, traveling, and even the simplicity of being outdoors with the beautiful scenery of the state of Ohio, she also enjoys being able to influence someone’s life in a positive way. When Kim was an occupational therapist, she was able to help others find their voice and independence; this is something she would continue to do and would never want to let go of. As a puppy raiser, Kim and her husband Ken found a way to indirectly aid other individuals by training the puppies that help people who are blind or visually impaired have their freedom and independence. Prior to her start as a puppy raiser, Kim heard about puppy raising through someone at her church and as a result, also heard about Guiding Eyes for the Blind. This was all ten years before she received her first puppy. Ken had a full-time job and was unable to put his time and energy into a puppy, but once Ken retired and Kim had enough time on her hands to raise a puppy, it was a no brainer on what to do next.
Kim is no stranger to dogs, having fostered thirty-two other dogs prior to being a puppy raiser and having grown up with dogs her whole life. She notes that growing a bond with a new puppy is almost instantaneous. Raising a puppy is different than fostering one, but Kim and Ken were prepared to begin their journey as novice puppy raisers. The prospect of raising a puppy did not scare Kim though. This is because getting her first puppy happened so quickly that there wasn’t much time to be scared. Kim and Ken’s first dog, Raleigh, led to many lessons being taught to both the pup and also to her and her husband. Kim states, “The number one thing was never, ever, ever, let them pull on the leash. At first once in a while, we would get lazy and when he was little, we would let him pull a bit. It didn’t take long before he was 60 pounds of muscle and pulling was a big problem. So we learned to be consistent in all things no matter how little the pup might be.” These mini-lessons led to a list being put upon their refrigerator about all the things that Raleigh taught them. Since then there have been four more dogs that Kim and Ken have generously taken in and have helped raise.
Between each dog, Kim has taken a break of a couple of months so the family can feel relaxed from the year of hard work, training and also accept the fact that their dog will no longer be with them. Raleigh was followed by Velita who is now a working guide dog. After Velita there was Jessa, a brood, then followed by Lisbon a dog in training to detect bombs with the Connecticut State Police and finally her current pup Gilbert. Though all of her dogs have had distinct and different personalities, two of them have helped enforce the idea of taking a break because of their energetic commitment to being the commanders of what’s happening moment by moment every day! But what keeps pushing Kim and Ken forward is knowing the fact that no matter the dog and their circumstances, the dog will always be able to help out the world in one form or another. As Kim states, “We pushed forward because all the dogs we have raised have ended up helping someone, either by breeding more guide dog puppies, being a guide dog, or in Lisbon’s case hopefully saving people’s lives by checking for explosives. We keep our eyes on the final goal!” To raise a dog with the mindset that Kim and Ken have is one of the most admirable things that they both have done and has helped them both make unforgettable memories.
Raising a puppy has blessed Kim with many memorable experiences. Many of those moments are from Guiding Eyes themselves because, without them, Kim would not have met so many amazing puppy raisers that care just as much about the dogs as she does. One of her favorite memories was the sight of her own dog being matched with someone and seeing her work as a guide dog. Kim also loves the new people she has gotten the chance to meet on the street through being a puppy raiser. However, the current pandemic has led to many unforeseen events and has left many of Kim’s plans canceled or postponed. Kim is currently taking care of Gilbert longer than expected but is doing her best to make sure that Gilbert is safe and sound and continues to practice all his skills. Kim has also been unable to do her regular routine as a puppy raiser. But Kim still persists by raising her puppy and continues to help out the cause by keeping Gilbert until he can step into the next phase of his future.
Kim Delfing always finds a way to put out positivity into the world. Not only have the effects of puppy raising left a lasting impact on the people that have received one of her well-trained dogs, but it has also left an impact on her. Raising a puppy has exposed Kim to new opportunities by encouraging her to experience things that she would not have previously done. Kim Delfing is one of those rare souls that helps the world because it’s what’s right and not for personal gain or ulterior motives. The world is a better and brighter place because of one Kim Delfing.