In life, some people choose to take the easy route, and some people have the grace to make life an easier route for others. Kristin Meredith, a retired lawyer, is now motivated by achieving something meaningful in her next step of life which both assists others and is an expression of her faith.
She’s lived in many different states throughout her life. She was born in Virginia and raised primarily in California before returning to Virginia in retirement. She practiced as an attorney for 30 years in California and Nevada. Various goals inspired her throughout life – getting into and graduating from college, getting into and graduating from law school, getting a good job, moving up in her law firm. Now, she has found a new source of motivation in being a raiser of puppies who will be trained to help people who lost their vision.
Her desire to volunteer started in high school with Kristin volunteering in several different activities. From a belief that God calls us to a life of service to others, she wants her volunteer activities to be such that they help people live better lives. And she feels blessed and enriched when she is able to contribute to society in this manner. This desire continued throughout her adult life, but the scope of her activities was always limited by the constraints of her professional responsibilities.
Kristin volunteered in various ways throughout her life, but now that she has more time — and recognized both the need for service dogs and her ability to contribute in this manner — she chose to become a puppy raiser. As she said: “There was never anything I did in my professional career that changed a life”. Puppy raising gave her a perfect opportunity to do such since a guide dog will most certainly change someone’s life.
Her interest in service dogs dates to her senior year in high school when a friend from church raised a guide dog. Kristin’s first thoughts were that it was a challenging thing to do, but at the same time, she would be able to show an expression of her faith.
However, at the time she first learned about service dogs and raising a puppy, she was very busy since becoming an attorney is a major commitment. Her focus was getting through college and law school, making her unable to raise a puppy. Once she became an attorney, she had to travel frequently, so it would be a while before she could raise a guide dog. When she retired, she finally had the time to raise a guide dog.
The need for service dogs also inspires Kristin Meredith to raise puppies. When people are in need of a guide dog, they usually have to wait a long time before they are able to receive one. Guide dogs aren’t ready to be trained right away. They need time to grow up first. “A dog can’t really start to be trained for service work until somewhere between 16 and 18 months, so unless folks will volunteer to raise the puppies and give them a good foundation, the number of dogs available would be drastically reduced” stated Kristin. Since the need for guide dogs is great and because guides contribute so much to a visually impaired person’s life, she felt puppy raising gave her the chance to contribute to society in a way that is purposeful. It also provided her the joy of raising a puppy.
A puppy raiser can have a puppy anywhere from fourteen to sixteen months and that is a long term responsibility. It is a commitment that many people aren’t capable of or willing to make. On top of that, there is a lot of work that must be done in socializing and working with the puppy.
One effect of being a puppy raiser is that Kristin must be available for the puppy for numerous hours each day. If anything were to happen to the puppy, the puppy raiser must be there to take care of it. A lot of time must be dedicated throughout each day to meet the needs of the puppy. These requirements include monitoring progress, attending obedience classes, and teaching the puppy commands. As Kristin noted, puppies cannot go everywhere (like vacations), so if she does not have a sitter to watch the puppy, she has to modify her plans. Some people are not able to commit the time that is required to do this, but at this time in her life, Kristin is able to put other things aside to take care of her puppies. The pup must become the main priority.
She also talked about the need to be able to afford the whole project, and unfortunately, not everyone can. A candidate also needs to have a home suitable to be able to raise a guide dog. However, Kristin states that the ultimate qualification is the right mindset to undertake such a process.
Another effect of being a puppy raiser is that Kristin often gets attached to her puppies emotionally. Over time, an inadvertent connection is built with the puppies. An absolute requirement for being a puppy raiser is that the raiser agrees to return the puppy when the time comes. This can often be hard, and she explains that it saddens her to not always know how her puppies are doing in the future; however, Kristin mostly feels satisfaction after she gives up one of her puppies. She knows that she just made someone else’s life much richer, and is thankful to have such an opportunity.
Puppy raising has also allowed Kristin to become a member of a community of Guiding Eyes puppy raisers and, through Guiding Eyes, she has also met visually impaired handlers with working guides. These friendships have become very meaningful to her and the input, support, and inspiration she received from all these new friends has been a wonderful and enriching experience for her. Kristin feels that her giving of herself to raise a puppy has been showered back on her multiple times through these friendships. Being of service and raising a puppy has changed Kristin’s life. That is the true gift of volunteering as a raiser in her opinion.
Had Kristin not been someone that cares about others as much as she does, she could not have been able to raise puppies. You need something to motivate and drive you to do such a task, that isn’t concrete like money. She sees the opportunity as being able to affect someone’s life in a meaningful manner while following God’s command that we be of service to others and also enriching her own life in the process.
Not many people are able to provide the commitment that is required, leading to a decline in the number of guide dogs available. Even though she works with the puppies for numerous hours a day and has to go through the emotional process of returning them, she is still motivated to raise guide dogs. Kristin mentioned the Guiding Eyes for the Blind slogan, “raise a puppy, change a life” and this is quote reflects her view of this opportunity given to her and the effect it has had on her life.