Training a puppy is a labor of love, but when it finally sits on command and learns good house manners, it’s rewarding. However, can you imagine giving your puppy away after about 18 months after it’s housebroken and you and your family have become attached to it? While it might sound heartbreaking, many families in the Capital District volunteer to do it for a good cause.
These people are opening their homes and hearts to raise puppies for approximately 18 months for a program called Guiding Eyes for the Blind Puppy Raising Program. Puppies are sent all over the Capital District, including Saratoga County, for further training for the program, eventually going to New York City for their last step of training.
Guiding Eyes for the Blind Puppy Raising Program of Yorktown Heights is looking for volunteers in the Capital District to help prepare the puppies for guide dog school. The Northern New York Puppy Raising Team, representing Saratoga, Warren and Washington counties and surrounding areas, meets twice a month at Christ Church United Methodist in Glens Falls and is in need of puppy raisers, puppy sitters and volunteers.
`The one we have right now is number six,` said Barbara Taszul of South Glens Falls. She and her family are raising their sixth puppy for the program. She has two children who are in college already, and she said that the experience of sending her children off to college and sending puppies on to their next step of training is similar.
`It’s very hard, but at the same time we always kind of laugh,` said Taszul. `You’re sort of nervous and upset when they leave, but I figure [we] did a good job because they’re ready to move on.`
She and her husband and children take puppies into their home at about two months old and keep them for about 18 to 20 months.
`We’re looking for puppy-raisers and puppy-sitters,` said Cheryl Lawyer, a region coordinator for Guiding Eyes for the Blind.
`Puppy raisers are the backbone of the guide dog program,` said Lawyer.
When trainers take the puppies into the home, they already know their names, are housebroken and kennel-trained. It’s the job of the trainer to teach them to sit, stay, be polite in public, have good house-manners and more. Eventually, dogs learn to navigate heavily trafficked streets and how to navigate owners around modes of public transportation such as subways and busses.
`They’re very smart little buggers,` said Lawyer.
According to Lawyer, you don’t have to be a dog trainer to partake in the program.
`For the most part we’re just helping to raise a good puppy in preparation for the [next step],` said Lawyer.
She said it’s important that people are able to make the full commitment. Volunteers must attend class twice a month ` for those in the region, classes take place at Christ Church United Methodist in Glens Galls and generally run from about 5:30 to 8 p.m.
Guiding Eyes covers all vet costs ` volunteers are expected to provide food, toys and `a nice place to sleep.`
`It’s a family affair. We have husband-wife teams, mother-daughter teams, mother-son teams and one gentleman who is retired and all he does is take care of that dog,` said Lawyer of the variety of puppy-raisers currently volunteering in the program.
The Taszul family is giving away their puppy, Carlton, on Nov. 10, and while they are preparing themselves emotionally, they’re looking forward to when they’re invited to Carlton’s graduation and they get to meet his final owner ` a blind person ` who really needs him.
`Graduations are awesome. You listen to the graduates speak about how these dogs are totally going to change their lives. It’s very cool,` said Taszul. “