Puppy Raiser with Purpose
by Sean Keiser
About the author: Sean Keiser is a senior in high school from West Lafayette, Indiana. He enjoys spending time with friends and family, watching sports, and playing soccer. He plans to pursue a career in Athletic Training after attending Purdue University for his Bachelors, and Auburn University for his Masters. Sean wrote this profile in conjunction with Susan Chamberlin 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.
Susan Chamberlin lives in Pittsford, New York. Her extended family is diehard Buffalo Bills fans, and her go-to karaoke song is “Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon. On top of this, she also raises future guide dogs for Guiding Eyes For The Blind. Raising these puppies gives Susan an agenda to get up in the morning, allows her to give back to the community, and offers her a challenge while keeping active.
Susan started as a volunteer puppy sitter and class helper in the summer of 2014. This service began after her second family pet died, and she knew that she still needed dogs in her life. She said, “ after my second forever dog died in the Fall of 2013, I knew I wanted to still be involved with dogs. I went looking for a way to do that and found Guiding Eyes for the Blind.”
Susan has now raised two puppies for Guiding Eyes for the Blind. She finished raising her first dog, Orly, in July 2015. She is now currently raising the second, Ipso. When asked if she needed any training to raise these dogs, Susan responded, “No, the “training” is given to all raisers weekly by a Guiding Eyes volunteer or a Guiding Eyes Regional Manager who follows a specific curriculum.” Susan is still involved in training, saying, “You never really “graduate”, you continue to learn and grow. Weekly classes are given, and puppy raisers also learn from the experiences of other raisers.
Dogs are companions, who can really have an impact on one’s life. This is no different for Susan. When asked how her pups have changed her life, she stated, “ It’s complicated. It’s more than the pups, it’s the Guiding Eyes For The Blind Organization”. After an early retirement, Susan moved to Pittsford from Delaware in 2005 to be near family. She lived alone with her two forever dogs, Jake and Ginger. When Jake passed away, Susan felt a hole in her heart. She began searching for ways to fill that hole. She knew she wanted to be involved with dogs, but nothing more than that. That’s when she came across Guiding Eyes For The Blind.
Goodbyes are never easy. Especially when the loss involves something close to us. Susan would know a lot about this feeling. She said, “For me, it was very difficult to give up Orly, my first pup. Upon returning home from taking Orly to Guiding Eyes in Yorktown Heights, Susan took up some dog sitting gigs to help brighten her lugubrious mood. Susan was asked, “Why continue raising these pups if giving them up is so hard?”. She said, “For me, it was a need. Focus, purpose, and structure”. Susan received a call on December 27th, 2018. A new puppy in the region needed an emergency puppy sitter. Susan gladly jumped at the request. Her doorbell rang one hour later, and into her house burst a feisty ball of fur. Susan knew this puppy had a purpose in her life, and she asked to become the puppy’s raiser. This fox red puppy, named Ipso, passed his In for Training (IFT) evaluation in January 2020 and is currently in harness training at Guiding Eyes in Yorktown Heights.
Finally, Susan was asked, “Do you ever get to see your pup again, after they’ve left you?”. She responded with, “The first year, when the puppy becomes a stud or a brood, Guiding Eyes requires that the “foster” contact the raiser at least 4 times per year. Susan grew a strong relationship with Orly’s new foster. The new foster informed Susan of Orly’s new life. Susan even met up with Orly and her new foster. They had dinner together, and Orly was titillated to see Susan. The bravery Susan showed by letting go of Orly is truly admirable.
Raising future guide dogs gives Susan Chamberlin an agenda to get up in the morning, allows her to give back to the community, and offers her a challenge while keeping active. Raising guide dogs is a brave task. It requires hours of attention and care. For Susan, this difficult task comes naturally to her. Someday, someone who is visually impaired may receive Susan’s puppy, causing them to be very happy and change their outlook on life. For this makes Susan Chamberlin, a true hero.