Adventures of a Puppy Raiser
About the Author: Maia Bell is a senior in high school from Lafayette, Indiana. She enjoys gymnastics, crafting, and writing. She plans to pursue a career in nursing after attending Purdue University. Maia wrote this profile in conjunction with Marilyn and Scott Evey 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.
Scott and Marilyn Evey are a married couple from Preston, a small town in Maryland. Together, they have been raising puppies since 2014. Puppy raising has changed their lives, and they have loved every minute of it, but what brought them into this activity in the first place? Multiple stars aligned that brought them to the start of this journey. They knew they wanted to bring a dog into their home, and after a series of events, realized that they wouldn’t be bringing just any dog into their home. After meeting a couple who raised Guiding Eyes puppies at a rest stop on their way to Massachusetts, and a little while later reading about their local Guiding Eyes region in the newspaper, Scott and Marilyn decided that puppy raising was their calling. Marilyn says, “life is not about living; it is about making the journey really count.” Marilyn and Scott have made their journey count by puppy raising, as doing so has been their way to make a difference in this world.
Scott and Marilyn are huge dog lovers. They had previously owned two corgis, who had unfortunately passed away at young ages. For awhile, their house was dog free, but they always knew that someday they wanted more pups. At the time, they did not know anything about Guiding Eyes puppy raising. Soon though, they would learn about the program that would change their lives forever.
According to Guiding Eyes, a puppy raiser is someone who invites a puppy into their home for one year, and love and train it as their own, until it’s time to give the puppy back to the program for it to live up to its true purpose; becoming a guide dog. Scott and Marilyn raise puppies through Guiding Eyes for the Blind. According to the Guiding Eyes website, their purpose is “to enrich the lives of the blind and visually impaired by providing them with superbly bred and expertly trained guide dogs.” Before these dogs can begin the process of becoming expertly trained guide dogs, they must have a good foundation. As early as eight weeks old, the puppies are paired with a raiser. It is the puppy raiser’s responsibility to provide the pup with lots of socialization experiences, teach the pup obedience skills, and teach the pup house manners. House manners are very important, as the pup does not have time to work on these once he begins his guide dog work. These three topics are taught to the pup throughout its first year of life with the raiser.
The way Scott and Marilyn found out about puppy raising was completely by chance. As they were on a trip to Massachusetts, they just so happened to park next to a couple who were returning one of the Guiding Eyes for the Blind puppies they had raised. Marilyn’s deep love and obsession for dogs brought her to ask if she could pet the dog, which led to conversing all about puppy raising and Guiding Eyes. The thought of becoming puppy raisers themselves intrigued them, but the idea was pushed to the back burner because of their busy lives. The thought never left the back of their minds, and was once again brought back into the light a few years later, when they read about a nearby Guiding Eyes region in their local newspaper. They previously had no idea that they had a local region, and to them, this was a sign of fate. After reading the article in the newspaper, they called their local Guiding Eyes region the very next day. When they decided to take on this adventure, their lives were still quite busy, but they didn’t want to wait any longer. It has now been five years since they began their puppy raising journey and they have loved every second of it.
Of course, it isn’t all easy, but it is not something they’ve ever thought about giving up. As Marilyn said, “Anything that is worth something special does take work, does take effort.” To them, puppy raising is worth the time it takes. It brings them a great amount of joy and happiness. Marilyn doesn’t like to refer to it as work, but instead, her passion. There is not much room on the agenda for a break when it comes to puppy raising, and the puppy raiser has to take the pup everywhere with them. Yes, even the bathroom! The puppies have to learn how to act in these situations, so that someday when they are guiding someone who needs their help, they know what to do. While puppy raising, there may be times when the raiser cannot take the pup with them. Luckily, there are Guiding Eyes puppy sitters, who know the puppy raising protocol, so if there ever is a time when a break is needed, the pup can be left with a sitter.
Sometimes, the puppy may not be the right fit to become a guide dog. This can happen for many different reasons, such as a medical issue, stress, or the puppy’s skills are better suited for something else. This was the case for Scott and Marilyn’s second pup, Parker. Parker was diagnosed with a medical issue when he was eight months old and was released from Guiding Eyes for the Blind’s guide dog program. They had the chance to adopt him, and they happily did.
Adopting Parker has been a very good decision for them. They say that he helps train the other dogs. He can be a good example for what the young pup is supposed to do when given a command. He also teaches the young pup that lots of treats and praise are given when commands are followed correctly. There are also times when Parker can interrupt the training process, such as times where the puppy is commanded to stand in a certain position by the trainer. Sometimes, Parker will hear the command and get there first, and then there is no room for the puppy. They don’t see this as a big issue though, and it usually gives them a good laugh. They are very grateful that they had the opportunity to adopt Parker as their own.
The main reason they stick with puppy raising is for the overwhelming joy and rewards that it brings. The process of giving the puppy up is never easy, and Marilyn says that “puppy raising is not for the weak of heart.” It is hard for them to return the puppy they loved as their own for an entire year, but knowing that they have raised a “hero” makes it easier. The joy of knowing their puppy is going to change the life of someone who needs it overpowers the sadness of returning them. Marilyn calls puppy raising her purpose, her way to give back, and her way to make a difference. Each puppy is a new journey that brings new experiences and lots of fun. It has taught both her and Scott many life lessons, such as how to live in the moment, and enjoy every little thing that life has to offer. It makes them very happy to know they are helping a person to live a more confident and independent life.
Puppy raising is a huge commitment, but it is one that brings people great pleasure. The relationship and bond between the raiser and pup will become the foundation for all the life lessons a guide dog needs to master. It is not the same as raising a family dog, since a lot more work goes into a future guide dog. The puppy has to be trained to act in an acceptable way in public places, so that someday it can guide another person seamlessly through life. This is what Scott and Marilyn do. They teach these puppies to be obedient, aware, and professional. They raise energetic and curious pups into mature and dependable dogs. They give the puppy their love, their kindness, and their hearts, and raise these pups so that someday they can make a difference in someone’s life. Marilyn has a saying on her refrigerator: “you always have to put your love on the line, because you never know whose life you may change.” It is through raising these pups that she puts her love on the line and changes lives. Scott and Marilyn are so incredibly thankful to the couple at the rest stop whose names they don’t even know, because meeting them introduced them to their passion and their purpose. Scott and Marilyn Evey, along with all other puppy raisers, are changing lives, “one puppy dog at a time.”
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