seldom prepared for life as a Seeing Eye dog. So, even with all of the benefits of our scientific breeding program and the outstanding environment in our Breeding Station, Seeing Eye puppies still start out as nothing more than lovable, energetic little fluff balls with lots to learn and see before they begin their formal training. The task of insuring that the puppy does learn enough and see enough of the world is the responsibility of our dedicated puppy raisers. Without those unselfish puppy raisers, it couldn’t happen.
Raising a Seeing Eye puppy is a difficult and tedious task that, despite the many rewards, requires lots of hard work and can take an emotional toll. I learned this first-hand when my daughter, Jessica, raised four Seeing Eye puppies in the 1980s and I was a puppy club leader. More recently, my wife, Ginger, and I finished raising a puppy just this past spring. Puppy raisers invest over a year of their lives transforming unruly, mischievous little puppies into well-mannered adolescent dogs. Just when they can start to enjoy the results of all their hard work, they have to turn the dog back to us to take the next step in its journey to become a Seeing Eye dog. Remember that mention of unconditional puppy love? By the time the puppy needs to go back, that love goes both ways. Our puppy families have to give up the dog they have learned to love deeply through a year’s worth of adventures, both good and bad. After all of that, hard as it is to believe, most of our puppy raisers take another puppy and do it all again.
For almost 80 years, The Seeing Eye’s mission has been: “To enhance the independence, dignity and self-confidence of people who are blind through the use of specially trained Seeing Eye dogs.” Staff, volunteers, donors, and students all help us achieve that mission, but somehow, the role of our puppy raisers is different from the rest.
This issue of The Guide is dedicated to thanking all of our puppy raisers and puppy club leaders. One way we attempt to show our appreciation is through our Family Day celebration held every year in August. The story and photos that follow will provide a glimpse into all the activities from this year’s Family Day. Part of the celebration included a tribute to the Linda Feinne-Roth Manager of Puppy Placement Christine Dickson. Another tribute went to Training Manager Pete Lang, who also plays an important role with puppy raisers. As you will read in the following pages, both of these long-term staff members are retiring this fall. They will be greatly missed.