Guide Dog puppy caretakers raising hope
BRECKENRIDGE – Guide Dogs for the Blind puppy raisers Grant and Judy Reid know their efforts c an change lives.For five years, the Breckenridge couple has worked with young dogs in the program which matches the visually-impaired with a trained guide dog. The volunteers socialize the pups from the age of about eight to 10 weeks until they are 14 to 18 months old, readying them for their next step in training at one of two professional facilities on the West Coast.The Reids, who are currently raising their fifth puppy, Whitman, found out how important the dogs are to their new owners when they got a call from the organization about the first young canine they’d worked with, Felda. They were told the woman the dog had been matched with could no longer keep the pet, and asked the couple if they would like her back. They accepted, knowing the dog had been through the professional training process and thinking of Judy’s sister, who had recently had brain surgery and was having difficulties with balance.
When Felda was returned, the Reids equipped her with a balance harness and gave her to Judy’s sister, essentially giving her her mobility back.”It’s about more than just getting around safely,” Judy said. “It expands social horizons.” She said her sister, who previously was using a cane, now has people coming up to her wanting to pet the dog.”She’s never had anyone say, ‘What a beautiful cane,'” Judy said.Keeping a pet for only about a year before turning it over isn’t easy.
“We do get pretty attached,” Grant said. “The big downside of doing this is having to let them go.”Volunteer puppy raisers get started by attending a local puppy raising club meeting. The Reids said there are three clubs in Denver and also locations in Fort Collins and Colorado Springs. After attending a few meetings and being interviewed by the club leader, interested puppy raisers puppysit for a certain number of hours as a final test determining if the situation is right for them.”Our primary job as puppy raisers is to teach basic obedience, good house manners and socialization,” Judy said.Grant said said they take their puppy on planes, near horses, around firehouse sirens – anything distracting.The dogs ready for professional training are put on a kennel-equipped, air-conditioned truck bound for the Guide Dogs for the Blind schools in either San Rafael, Calif., or Boring, Ore.
After five months of formal guidework training at the facility the dogs are matched with a visually-impaired person who is enrolled in the in-residence training program at the school.For more information on the nonprofit Guide Dogs for the Blind, visit http://www.guidedogs.com.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado