Puppy Raiser Profile: Laura Cox by Israel Tellez

 In News & Events

A Heart and a Mission
by Israel Tellez

About the author: Israel Tellez is a recent high school graduate from Indiana. He enjoys many things including his favorite subject, science. He plans to pursue a career in chemistry after college. Israel wrote this profile in conjunction with Laura Cox 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.

Laura and her daughter crouch down to give a hug to sitting black lab Pete after his IFT evaluation. I had the privilege of learning about Laura Cox and her experience with puppy raising. Her story has had many twists and turns that have led to her being a puppy raiser. Laura is a good woman, and I am glad that she has allowed me to tell her tale.

Laura lives in NE, Ohio, in a neighborhood with a large grassy space in the center that she describes as being as huge as a football field. Her neighborhood contains sidewalks that interweave in various configurations within a spacious loop. There is also a fenced-in tennis court which is wonderful for exercising and training a pup off-leash. Laura notes that there are some animals around the area such as dogs, cats, squirrels, and birds. She adds, “Our pups get to practice seeing these animals from a young age.” Her home is within walking distance of the nearby high school. Within her immediate surroundings, there are people of all ages to interact with her pups over the time she has them.

Laura’s personality is perfect for puppy raising! She sees herself as a creative person who likes to make people smile. She finds great joy in giving and receiving small surprises or acts of kindness. Laura is a person who can see both sides of most situations. Although she doesn’t mind leading & speaking in front of a group, she’s very content to be alone with her family and pups! She finds joy in small things. In her work world, Laura likes to energize the team. Her family and friends know her as a passionate friend who cares deeply for those close to her. In all situations, she is one who can always find a reason to smile & laugh or encourage & support her family & friends.

Laura takes a selfie on a snowy day with black lab Maxwell. Laura wears a bright red hat which matched the red plaid jacket that Maxwell is wearing.The events that led to Laura’s family committing to be puppy raisers are interesting. In June of 2016, her family dog died. They were all very sad. They had dogs their whole lives, and losing him was really tough. Her oldest daughter, Maggie, was starting college in the fall, and her youngest, Katie, was heading into her senior year of high school. Soon after their dog died, Katie was desperate to get a puppy, but because she would be leaving in a year for college, they weren’t quick to get a puppy and make a ten-year dog commitment right before becoming empty nesters. They all missed having a pup, though.

One day, Laura started looking into ‘Puppies with a Purpose.’ The “Today Show” on NBC was raising a puppy on the show, and she wondered if that might be a good fit for them. They discussed it as a family, and the more research she did, the more excited they became! The idea of raising a puppy to help someone, having a puppy in the house during the time Katie was still home in High School and then having the chance to see the pup grow and serve a bigger purpose, seemed to fit all their needs & more! They actually were so thrilled they could hardly research quickly enough. Soon, they found a nearby chapter of Guiding Eyes for the Blind in Cleveland East, twenty minutes from them. They reached out to the local puppy coordinator for information. They were approved as puppy raisers and started their pre-placement & puppy orientation classes. They found out that in the fall, they would be getting their first puppy! Coincidentally, Guiding Eyes for the Blind was the same organization raising the puppy, Wrangler, on the “Today Show” that helped them find out about puppy raising!

Laura and her husband pose for a group photo with graduate team Melissa and black lab guide dog Maxwell outside on the Yorktown Heights campus after the graduation ceremony.Laura and her family have thus far raised two puppies from start to finish (8 weeks of age to 17 months) with Guiding Eyes. Their first pup was Pete, a male black lab. They loved the 1st experience raising and especially seeing Pete get matched with his handler. They attended graduation at Guiding Eyes and were able to meet Jimmy, Pete’s amazing handler, and see their puppy again. The joy of seeing the new team impacted them so deeply they knew it was exactly the way they were meant to give back and serve others. Laura says, “Puppy raising is both very challenging and VERY rewarding.” She adds, “Especially seeing pups make progress, learn a skill, gain confidence, earn their ‘vest,’ be calm in a variety of environments, bond with us as raisers, and grow into their unique personalities & abilities. It is very rewarding.” Laura and her family were again fortunate to see their second male black lab, Maxwell, do well and become a guide dog. They attended Maxwell’s graduation too and met the perfect team of Melissa and Maxwell.

Laura reflects that raising Pete, their first pup, was an interesting experience for them because Laura’s daughter Katie was the primary handler. As a high school student, Katie gained so much from this experience, growing her confidence & developing skills she never expected to have honed. With Maxwell, Katie was only home to start him during the months of May – July, and then Laura and her husband took over raising full time. This was a different experience for them, but again, they learned and loved it so much. They cannot fathom life without these pups; so much meaning and purpose come with every task and duty that goes into puppy raising. It is because it brings purpose to their lives too, even before the pup becomes a guide dog. “That’s joy on top of joy,” Laura says.

Laura gives black lab Maxwell a kiss on the nose.During the time between their first pup going in for his “In For Training” test (the test the pups take before going into formal guide dog training) and receiving their second pup, Laura and her family had other Guiding Eyes pups stay with them for a few days to a few weeks. According to Laura, this is called puppy sitting, and it’s a great way to get a “puppy fix” and also help puppy raisers have a break when they need to go out of town. It also helps the pups be exposed to new and different environments while still having consistent rules wherever they stay. This was another way to help Guiding Eyes and stay connected to the community and still help with pups while not raising a puppy full-time on their own.

Both Pete & Maxwell won Laura’s heart entirely and she has loved them both completely with no favorites. She feels as though she has found a higher purpose in life because of puppy raising. Just going to the grocery store has gained more meaning because of the puppies being exposed to scents, sounds, and having interactions with others. Thanks to puppy raising, and being a part of the Guiding Eyes family, Laura & her family’s life has been enriched beyond expectation.

Laura, her husband, and her daughter pose for a group photo with guide dog team Jimmy and black lab Pete in Alumni Hall after the graduation ceremony.In the early weeks of working with her first puppy, Laura found many aspects of puppy raising very challenging (although puppy breath and cuteness helped!). Fortunately, she had some experienced raisers living within a mile of her home who helped her and her family become an efficient puppy raiser family. Obviously Laura feels sad about saying goodbye to the pup she had trained and bonded with over a year & ½, but she mostly feels happy because she has helped a pup fulfill his purpose and become what he is meant to be! Laura and her family have been given the best gift a puppy raiser could receive and are still connected with the pups and handlers. Receiving “pup-dates” about their new lives together, including photos & videos, is beyond joyful and truly reflects the truth of the message: “In every guide dog beats the heart of a puppy raiser.”

Puppy raising has had other perks as well. Laura names some when she says with affection, “Puppy breath, puppy bellies, and puppy snuggles, along with meeting a community of people who share a passion for serving, a deep love for puppies, and willingness to teach new raisers some of the ropes.” Laura has enjoyed her time being a puppy raiser since she is giving back to her community by helping people she may never know who need future guide dogs. Someone once said to her, “Without puppy raisers, there would be no guide dogs,” and that saying has stuck with her. She cherishes being able to serve others in a way that impacts people greatly. It is safe to say that Laura Cox and her family have enjoyed the changes puppy raising has brought to them.

Learn more about puppy raising

Kathy sits at a park table with yellow lab guide dog Nacho who lays on the grated rubber table.