At the heart of every successful guide dog team is a puppy raiser who first taught a puppy to feel safe and to succeed in this world! Guide Dogs of America can't make guide dogs without puppy raisers! As a longtime VHOC member (nearly 20 years!) and board member, I know our membership is comprised of some stellar dog handlers, and I'd LOVE to recruit a VHOC member or two (or more!) to raise a future guide dog for GDA! It's an amazing opportunity to change the life of a person who is blind or visually impaired.
Multiple dog households are fine, so long as resident dogs are appropriate with other dogs. Don’t have a fenced yard? That’s not a deal-breaker so long as you get out for walks. Work away from home? Ask your employer for permission to bring a guide dog puppy-in-training to work with you. (We can provide letters of support for your employer.) Got kids? Puppy raising is a great way to teach kids about empathy, service to others and the disability community. Recently retired? Puppy raising is a great “retirement sport.” Empty nester? What a wonderful way to fill your days! All it takes to be the “perfect puppy raiser” is a desire to make a difference and the time to invest in the ongoing training and socialization of a future canine super hero!
People often say, "I'd love to raise a puppy, but I could never give it up." But here's the thing: You aren't giving the dog up... you're giving it forward. And when the dog graduates and we introduce you to the recipient of the dog you raised as a puppy, you gain a life-long friend who is forever grateful, and who loves the dog just as much as you do. If the dog graduates, you get to feel like a rock star because your role in that dog's early life played a major role in its success! If the dog is career changed, you have the first right of refusal on adopting the dog. When you look at it that way, it's a total win-win!
If it's something you've ever considered, I'd strongly encourage you to come to the graduation ceremony for our current class. We will publicly celebrate nine new dog-handler teams on Saturday, May 18 at 10 a.m. in the Visitor Education Center, located at 13479 Glenoaks Blvd., in Sylmar. It’s very impactful to hear from the graduates themselves, about how life-changing it is to navigate life with a trained guide dog by their side. As a person who is sighted, it’s so easy to under-estimate the challenges of navigating a sighted world without being able to see. Graduates, especially those who lost their vision over time, regularly talk about how they largely withdrew from life, having lost their confidence, until a guide dog restored their ability to travel safely, independently and confidently.
Attending an info session is another great way to learn about the program and get questions answered in real-time. The next two info sessions are May 11 at 10:30 a.m. and June 15 at 10:30 a.m. We are currently preparing to place a plethora of puppies throughout June and July, so now is a great time to jump into the application process in anticipation of a summer puppy! We’re also hosting a Community Open House on June 22 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. It’s a day of campus tours, guide dog demos, puppy trials, puppy kisses and much more.
To learn more, visit www.guidedogsofamerica.org and look for the “Puppy Raising” link on the “GDA Programs” page. You can also contact me directly via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (818) 833-6447.
Thanks for helping GDA “make teams come true!” We can’t make guide dogs without puppy raisers like you!
Puppy Program Coordinator (and VHOC member!)
Guide Dogs of America