I raised six puppies with my family over a period of eight years of volunteering for Guide Dogs for the Blind as a puppy raiser. Two were selected to become breeders and one recently became a working guide. Those that became breeders have in turn had puppies which have led to fourteen active working guides, with more puppies still in training. We also adopted a career change dog, Cider, who is an integral part of our family.
Aside from seeing other puppy raisers success at graduations, my family and I had not had the opportunity to experience presenting a fully trained guide dog to a blind person. That was until our sixth guide dog, Luau. She was a fun-loving, golden retriever cross with a warm personality. It was because of Luau that I was able to experience the impact I had on someone else in my community. That someone was Dawn, a kind woman who had the personality to mesh with Luau's. It was a truly remarkable experience to hear firsthand from Dawn the impact we, as puppy raisers, had on her and all of the others receiving working guides that day at graduation from all across the U.S. When speaking on stage, Dawn said that, "You allow us to spread our wings and the opportunity to have sight again." I gained the fulfillment that I contributed to a priceless gift - a special bond of trust, love and companionship - that granted Dawn a new independence. I also gained a new awareness of the influence I can have in my community - one that spans the continent!
The impact a guide dog can have on one's life is incredible, not only on the life of the blind person receiving the dog, but also on the life of the raiser. It's a labor of love, one that I began in the third grade not knowing where it would lead me today. As a puppy raiser I have had the opportunity to be a part of this journey. I ultimately got to witness a missing piece being restored to a blind person when they receive their guide dog. This furry assistant brings them a life of mobility and independence, allowing them to do basic tasks that many of us take for granted each day. Knowing the joy and freedom a guide dog brings to someone visually impaired makes the experience and dedication to the task all worth it. What these dogs truly do for blind people is beyond what words can explain.
My experience in raising a guide dog puppy has greatly influenced the life of someone blind in my community. It has brought someone basic necessities that many of us take for granted everyday such as mobility and vision. It provides them with the opportunity to create a unique, lifelong partnership with a dog that they can trust and depend on to navigate them safely through this complex world. It enables them to travel more effectively and faster. Anyone who receives a guide dog forms such a strong relationship with their furry companion; it is as if the dog becomes a part of them.
Through the puppy raising experience, I have learned the importance of the larger vision of GDB, that not all the dogs have the passion or what it takes to be a guide. It is our task, however, as a group or team of raisers to help make those determinations and care for all the dogs for wherever their path may lead them. I learned by sticking to this concept for the long term and with multiple raisers that ultimately we help GDB meet their goals. I gained a new appreciation for commitments to goals and the importance of my role. I will apply this lesson to other aspects of my life.
This fall I will be heading to Pacific Lutheran University to major in biochemistry with a minor in Spanish. I hope to use my education to become a forensic scientist. Though I will not be directly involved with Guide Dogs while at college, I plan to continue to volunteer in my community. My experiences from Guide Dogs have encouraged me to continue living out my passion for volunteering, social action and impacting others in my community. I am committed to investing time in helping others and learning from those experiences. The unique experiences I have gained through my time with Guide Dogs have shaped my individuality. They have instilled in me generosity and a continual desire to help those around me in my community.