You can help train a guide dog too

The Today Show’s decision to raise an adorable puppy named Wrangler for Guiding Eyes for the Blind has increased interest in the generous work volunteers across the nation do to prepare puppies to head off to train as guide dogs. My friend Mary Ivory and her husband are two of those generous people –they volunteered to raise a puppy for Leader Dogs for the Blind last year. Mike and Mary live on the 12th floor of our apartment building here in Chicago. Imagine how many trips they took up and down the elevator for house training – and that was just the beginning! Mary explains it all in this lovely guest post.

Puppy raising: It changes the street life

By Mary Ivory

Everybody say aaaahhhhhhh! That's Ananda at a very young age taking a nap.

Everybody say aaaahhhhhhh! That’s Ananda at a very young age taking a nap.

My laid-back husband Mike came home one day sounding defeated. “I just walked up the street and no one said ‘Hi’ to me!” We’d been living with Ananda, a female Black Labrador Retriever for 10 months, and we’d just returned her to Leader Dogs for the Blind in Rochester Hills, Mich., two weeks earlier. Mike had forgotten what urban life without a puppy is like.

We live in a very friendly and close-knit neighborhood, but it’s still the big city. Everyone is in a hurry and distracted with their own lives, but you have to slow down when you are walking a puppy, and when others see you with the puppy, they often slow down, smile and say hello, too.

Watching and knowing what a dog can do for a person’s quality of life is a bit of happy mystery. Watching and knowing what a trained service animal can do for a person who needs assistance is the mystery turned into a real miracle. I have always had animals in my life, and as life would happen, I found myself with time and energy to volunteer to raise a puppy for Leader Dogs. Lucky for me, Mike was agreeable to this adventure.

As the job title implies, puppy raisers are charged with creating an environment and focusing on skills to help a puppy become a candidate for a career as a leader — a guide dog for a blind or visually impaired person.

Puppy raising is about nurturing a calm and focused dog to prepare them for the actual skill training that takes place after they are returned. For the first months of life after they leave the litter they live in homes to learn such skills as becoming housebroken — yes that means going outside hourly when awake when they are very small. Yes, that means even in the winter of the polar vortex you go for a walk. You also are taught how to teach calm walking on a leash, not easy when your pup is sweet and just full of friendly wiggles and licks, and the other ‘basics’ like sit, stay, come, no, heal, down……oh yes and ‘drop it’ or ‘leave it’ as she snuck a sock from the dirty clothes or found a stray chicken bone on the street.

Everybody say "thank you" to Mary, Mike and all the puppy raisers for all the schools. It's a tremendous and generous effort.

Everybody say “thank you” to Mary, Mike and all the puppy raisers for all the schools. It’s a tremendous and generous effort.

And all of this happens during all hours of the day, which means you walk down the street a lot. It’s a busy but fun time — strangers snap out of a distracted or grumpy state to talk about the dog, and people seemingly down on their luck rise up to chat about and pet a friendly puppy.

That mystery of connection with animals and people is powerful and amazing to me. My busy city street transformed into a small town lane during the 10 months Ananda was living with us. And yes, it was hard to take her back to her career home. Ananda, which means joy or bliss in Sanskrit, was an intense and wonderful presence in our lives.

I’ve received an email from the Puppy Development Department at Leader Dogs with the picture above telling us she is progressing in her career training. We miss her but are so happy we had this chance to be a part of this great big task, and who knows? We may do it again. Next time, though, we’ll sign up when the dog doesn’t need hourly walks in deep freeze weather.


 

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  1. HICHAM Says:

    Commence whenever you can easily, fat steadily. Most of all, educate your pup as a way to amuse alone, to not rely on all of you enough time, never to stick to anyone continually.


  2. Beth Finke Says:

    Jan,
    Try Canine Companions for Independence
    http://www.cci.org

    They are a national organization that trains dogs to help people who have physical Disabilities, and their site says “disabilities served include, but are not limited to, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, arthritis and cerebral palsy.”
    .
    You can apply here:

    http://www.cci.org/site/c.cdKGIRNqEmG/b.4010981/k.87A7/Apply_For_A_Dog.htm

    hope this helps –


  3. Jan Says:

    Where can I get a trained service animal for myself. I have MS and I lost my due to her age. I got Ethal 14yrs ago and she was trained for me in California. I can’t afford to pay for a new one and I’m not sure anymore where to get one. Can anyone help me. My Ms is progressing and I’m by myself living in a one bedroom apartment.

    Thank you for any help that you might be able to provide.

    Jan


  4. Online Puppies School Says:

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    i discovered many excellent information in this
    websites. http://www.PUPPIESCLASS.com


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