Training a Guiding Eyes dog

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PictureAmandine Lowderback and her daughter, Scarlette with Drew, the Guiding Eyes puppy they are raising. Photo by Betty Goldfarb

By Lil Busse

Guiding Eyes for the Blind puppy named Drew recently arrived in Granby and has been welcomed by his new puppy raiser—Amandine Lowderback and her daughter, Scarlette. When Amandine was a little girl, she had an adult friend who was also a guide dog user. She loved to help her friend and her dog and vowed to volunteer one day to help sight impaired individuals. Recently Amandine attended a Guiding Eyes presentation at her workplace and remembered her vow to volunteer. She signed up to raise a puppy right away. 

For someone without sight, a Guiding Eyes dog is a priceless, life-changing gift providing independence, companionship and mobility. Raisers establish the loving human bond that is the foundation for the puppy’s future role in a guide dog team. The volunteers welcome eight-week-old puppies into their homes and, with full support from the nonprofit including training classes and free vet care, love, nurture, and educate the puppies for a 14 to 16 month period before sending them off to their calling as a guide dog. Amandine and Scarlet and young puppy, Drew, are at the very beginning of this process. Fortunately, the Guiding Eyes Northern CT Puppy Raising Region’s network of Guiding Eyes staff and volunteers are nearby and eager to help guide them through weekly classes and training.  

Guiding Eyes puppy raisers come from all walks of life and include couples, families with children, young adults and senior citizens. The nonprofit’s Puppy Raising Program has more than 400 volunteers from Maine to North Carolina. As Michelle Brier, Guiding Eyes’ director of marketing and communications, notes, “puppy raisers have an essential role in the journey of a Guiding Eyes dog. Without their hard work and dedication, we’d simply be unable to provide guide dogs to people who rely on them.”     

Guiding Eyes for the Blind is always looking for puppy raisers or sitters for when the primary raiser is away and can’t take the puppy with them. Contact Lillian Busse, Regional Coordinator, at lilbusse@aol.com to learn more. Puppy raising classes are held on Monday evenings in Granby and Avon. And like it on Facebook: facebook.com/GEBNCT to see what it’s all about. Visit the Open House May 18, from 6-8 p.m. at the Avon Congregational Church, 6 West Main Street Avon. You can also call  Maureen Hollis at 1-866-432-5227 or visit www.guidingeyes.org/volunteer/puppy-raising/ for additional information on the Puppy Raising Program.

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