International Guide Dog Day is April 28th. Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center & Urgent Care has a long history caring for Guide Dogs in Training. We love and celebrate this amazing program. One of our staff members, Cyndi Davis, is a Leader of Alameda County 4H Guide Dog Puppy Raisers and has helped raise 15 guide dog puppies. In honor of International Guide Dog Day she has written about her experiences.
My dog is my copilot. For most of my major life accomplishments, my dogs have come with me. Guide Dogs for the Blind allow hundreds of puppy raisers each year the opportunity to experience the love and companionship of a puppy for a little over a year. In the much too short time each of my dogs have spent in my life, each has taught me countless lessons that cannot be learned from books or even the most patient of mentors.
I learned responsibility, loyalty, dependability, honesty, hard work, and my good sense of humor all from my dogs. With the help of my constant companions I developed the courage to fight for the causes I believed in the most and to step outside my comfort zone and experience new things. I remember just before starting college taking my puppy Bayna back for formal training in San Rafael. I told her we would be starting college together, even if we were going to different schools.
I remember knowing something was missing my first year in college, and not knowing just what it was. I was enjoying meeting new friends, living in a new place, loved my major, but something did not feel right. The absence of my ever-present pooch had more of an effect than I realized. I knew I needed to find a local puppy club to become involved with as I missed my guide dog family and spending time with people who just might love their dogs almost as much as I do.
In college I was able to continue raising puppies as transfer dogs. Transfer dogs are puppies that come to you at an older age (puppies usually come to us around 8 weeks of age), this was perfect for me because each dog came ready to attend classes. Each puppy taught me more about life, and myself than I could possibly put into words. At the same time, each of those puppies created hope in someone of being able to achieve independence once again.
The hardest thing I have ever had to experience in life is giving up my dog because they were ready for training. However, I have never looked back on my decision to continue to raise puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. When each puppy completes training, there is a graduation ceremony where you are able to meet the person who has been matched with your dog. The dogs absolutely lose it - they are the worst behaved dogs in the world in that moment. They completely forget everything you have worked so hard to teach them as they jump into your arms, lick your face, run in circles, tangle you in their leash, and pretty much go crazy. It is in that moment when they regain their composure and, without command, return to sit with their new owner that you know - this dog is their copilot.
Each year Guide Dogs for the Blind breed about 1,000 puppies. These puppies are placed in homes with 1,400 puppy raisers that socialize these pups and teach them basic obedience. Every year around 300 new guide dog teams graduate, to add to the nearly 2,200 working teams.
Not only does Guide Dogs for the Blind provide a once in a lifetime chance to see the gift that a guide dog can truly be for someone seeking independence, they give puppy raisers the chance to experience the gift these dogs can be first hand.
Guide Dogs for the blind are a nonprofit organization with a training campus located in San Rafael, California. Guide Dogs is run on private donations that allow them to provide service animals, free of charge, to men and women who are able to rely on these dogs for new-found independence. If you are interested in helping out Guide Dogs for the blind through volunteering, or by making a tax deductible donation, please contact them through their website: www.guidedogs.com.