The Puppy Raiser
by Hunter Charles
About the author: Hunter Charles is a senior in high school from Lafayette, Indiana. He enjoys hanging out with friends and playing basketball. He plans to pursue a career in the military after graduation and is looking forward to serving his country in this way. Hunter wrote this profile in conjunction with Tara Schatz 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.
A freelance writer, photographer, wife, mother, and puppy raiser, Tara Schatz does not live a mundane life. From a little blue house in Bennington, Vermont, which is a small town near the New York and Massachusetts borders, she spends her time working and caring for her family and the dogs that pass through, according to her blog, backroadramblers.com. Tara has spent her entire life loving animals. She has been volunteering for Guiding Eyes for years and has raised ten dogs. Both her love of building relationships with dogs as well as an advertising flyer led Tara to become a puppy raiser; in turn, she has become more of an outgoing person who is full of pride for what she does.
A love of building relationships with dogs helped Tara Schatz to become a puppy raiser. Tara has had a dog for the majority of her life, from childhood to adulthood, so she has had plenty of experience of building relationships with dogs. She originally didn’t know how to train dogs; she knew “only how to love them”, but that was enough to lead her down the road to becoming a puppy raiser. Tara had the love for the dogs, but she needed something or someone to introduce her to Guiding Eyes and that came in the form of a flyer. A flyer that reminded her of a movie she once saw.
A random “flyer on a window that said Puppy Raisers Wanted, with a picture of a little yellow lab puppy on it” for Guiding Eyes mesmerized Tara Schatz and helped her to remember a Disney movie called “Love leads the way” which was about the first guide dog in the United States of America. The movie inspired ten-year-old Tara to badly want to be able to “train dogs for a higher purpose”. These events led to Tara signing up and becoming a puppy raiser.
After Tara Schatz saw the flyer and remembered the movie, she called Guiding Eyes and they had her fill out an application online. Then “she was invited to attend what’s called Pre-Placement classes, where she learned all about the program, including the training methods, veterinary care, and how to socialize the puppies”. Tara had to show dedication so the instructors would allow her to become a puppy raiser. To make sure she knew what she was getting herself into, she had to puppy-sit an older dog for a weekend. The classes taught Tara relationship-based training methods so she could get the dogs ready.
Once a shy, anxious person who wasn’t the most outgoing, being a puppy raiser for Guiding Eyes has affected Tara Schatz so that she is now an outgoing, less shy, and less anxious person who is willing to collaborate with anyone for the sake of Guiding Eyes. Tara “also works with lots of other puppy raisers and they share a love for dogs and volunteering”. Being a puppy raiser has led her to meet plenty of new people. She has become more of an outgoing person who has attended the graduation of the dogs that she raised and those moments fill her with pride and make her grateful to be able to help the way she does.
Guiding Eyes has led Tara Schatz down a long road where in the end she can see what her efforts of raising a dog do, and those moments make Tara extremely proud and grateful that she can be a part of their special journey to give someone a more independent life. Once Tara returns the dogs to Guiding Eyes, after about a year of raising the dog, sometimes longer if it is believed that the dog still needs more time, they train the dog to be able to work with a blind and visually impaired person, so they can live more independently. Tara attends the graduation of the dogs that make it and she loves to be there and see the commitment the dogs have made to their new partner. She says that she worries a little when she attends graduations that they will misbehave when they are around her, but usually, they have a solid work ethic, even though they have only been working with their new partners for a few weeks. Those moments are what encourage her to volunteer again so she can help another person who needs a wonderful working dog.
Tara Schatz, a puppy raiser for Guiding Eyes, has done a lot, not just for the dogs she has raised, but for the blind and visually impaired people who become handlers of the grown-up puppies. With a love of building relationships with dogs, she took an interest in Guiding Eyes and a simple flyer was enough to spark a memory of an older time and that was sufficient for her to sign up and participate in Guiding Eyes. She put a lot of work into it, but she got payoffs as well. For instance, she got to become more of an outgoing person. Puppy raising for Guiding Eyes has filled her with a sense of pride and it made her grateful to do what she enjoys doing. Guiding Eyes has helped Tara learn how to develop deep relationships with dogs using relationship-based training methods, so she could continue to do what she enjoys doing. To this day, Tara continues to puppy raise for Guiding Eyes with her tenth puppy being a black lab named Malinda. She has had six dogs graduate with her last graduating in November 2019 and living in Washington State.