Guide Dog Puppy Trainers

This post was most recently updated on June 29th, 2018

It’s probably a very rewarding job, but tinged with sadness… a guide dog puppy trainer. Can you imagine? A puppy comes to your home at 2 months old, you train him for every eventuality and then, at about 18 months old, give the dog away to undergo guide dog training. Wow. I’m sure that’s an emotional moment, as this story testifies…

Orleans, a Golden Labrador Retriever, is preparing to give a new leash on life to someone who is blind.

The 17-month-old pup is finishing her basic training and is headed for the next stage in her career by attending guide dog school, part of the Puppy Raising Program for the Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

It’s a bittersweet occasion for volunteer Kathryn Hoffman, who has known Orleans since the dog came to live with her Queensbury family 15 months ago. Hoffman has been responsible for getting Orleans to a point where she can adapt calmly to a new environment and respond to basic commands.

The dog has been a near-constant companion to Hoffman, going to the grocery store, the mall and even church, once Orleans got her blue jacket emblazoned with “GEB” (guiding eyes for the blind) and could go inside public places.

“The first time I took her to church I made sure she had a long, long walk, and she basically took a nap and snored through the service,” Hoffman said with a chuckle.

Cheryl Lawyer, Northeastern New York coordinator for the program, said there always is a need for volunteers to take on the responsibility of socializing and sensitizing young dogs to new situations so they can eventually become the watchful eyes for the blind.

Hoffman is now contemplating life without Orleans in the house.

“The first question people always ask is, ‘How can you ever give the puppy up?’ Initially my attitude was very cavalier because – having just sent a couple of kids off to college in the past few years – to me it was just another kid going off for higher education. But when they moved her (guide school training) to January, I think that’s when it really hit us,” Hoffman said. “Orleans is more than ready, and she needs to have that kind of activity and stimulation in her life. It’s difficult to give them up, but they truly do have a higher calling.”

(full story link)

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