Raising a puppy is an exciting commitment to a furry friend and an incredibly rewarding journey. While there are ups and downs along the way, there is nothing more meaningful than watching that little pup growing into a guide dog and change someone’s life. Puppy raisers are an integral and invaluable part of the process of creating exceptional guide dogs.
The first step to becoming a puppy raiser is asking some important questions. “Will I have enough time to devote to this puppy’s care and training? Am I able to meet a young Labrador or German shepherd’s physical exercise requirements? Will I be able to handle giving the dog back to Guiding Eyes at the end of the process? If the answers to these questions are affirmative, then the next step will be to visit guidingeyes.org and determine what geographical puppy raising region you would be a part of. Guiding Eyes has puppy raising regions spanning from Maine to North Carolina, and as far West as Ohio.
After determining a region, you will want to fill out and submit the puppy raiser application. This form will give the Puppy Program Region Manager a better idea of your lifestyle, home environment, and interest in Guiding Eyes in order to help you decide if puppy raising is right for you. Once the application has been reviewed, you and other potential puppy raisers will attend a series of orientation classes to learn about the lessons you’ll teach your pups over the 14 to 16 months you’ll have them.
When orientation classes have been completed, you will “borrow” a puppy from another raiser in the region to help you determine if you are ready to make the commitment to a puppy of your own. This “puppy sit” can last anywhere from a week to longer, and is meant to help you figure out how to fit a Guiding Eyes puppy into your life. If you’re ready to move forward, the Region Manager will begin the process of matching you with your own puppy.
Once that 8-week-old puppy is in your arms, the puppy raising journey truly begins. Along the way you will feel everything from love and happiness at watching your puppy grow and learn, to frustration when he or she stumbles across problems, and bittersweet emotions when the time comes to say goodbye and send him or her off to a higher purpose.
But when you sit at graduation, watching your puppy at the front of the room with his or her harness and handler, every moment will be made well worth the time, commitment and effort. The endless puppy love is just a great bonus.
by Saxon Eastman, volunteer puppy raiser and Guiding Eyes staff member