And They Call It Puppy Love
In October 2007, Christine Dickson, the Linda Feinne-Roth Manager of Puppy Placement, will conclude a 26-year career with The Seeing Eye.
It is not just “a job” from which Chris Dickson will retire, but a way of life: Lonely hours on the highways of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware in rain, sleet or snow; only the whimpers of a 7-week-old puppy for company; the bittersweet silence of a van whose precious cargo has been delivered for training; a telephone call, day or night, from a puppy raiser seeking help or wanting to brag about their precious pup; the amazing stories of the graduates whose lives have been touched by the selfless sacrifice of puppy raisers. “I regret none of it,” said Dickson.
Dickson’s relationship with The Seeing Eye began with Andy, a male golden retriever puppy. A native of Philadelphia, Dickson and her husband and five children had moved to Bucks County, Pa., and became involved in 4-H. “I taught sewing for years,” Dickson said. “Bucks County was the first county in Pennsylvania to raise puppies for The Seeing Eye. Kathy Cook from The Seeing Eye came to one of our meetings to recruit puppy raisers.” Andy was only the first of what turned out to be 59 puppies raised by the Dickson family.
Dickson was hired as an area coordinator for Puppy Placement in 1981. “All coordinators cover a territory. I had North Hampton, Bucks, Lehigh and Montgomery counties in Pennsylvania. Our program was much smaller back then. I had about 20 families in all. I think we had about 100 puppy raisers compared to the 800 we have now. Having been a puppy raiser helped. I could understand what the families were going through, especially when it came time to give the puppy back to the school.”
An area coordinator is part stork, delivering the puppies to their families, and part Cruella Deville, picking them up when it’s time to continue their education at The Seeing Eye. Coordinators make regular visits to raisers to lend support, conduct meetings, make school presentations, and attend the various 4-H functions. “It was a lot of long hours on the road, and that was before GPS and cell phones,” Dickson explained. She expanded recruitment efforts to