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I spent a recent weekend at an event that brought together guide dog teams, puppy raisers, and trainers, all from Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a New York-based organization. It was a “continuing education” weekend, offering training and coaching for teams, education on dog related topics ranging from breeding for success to technology that eases travel for guide dog teams, and opportunities for people who work with guide dogs to meet the people who raised and trained them. Nothing like it had ever happened before at any guide dog school.

The weekend was three years in the making. The idea was initially met with skepticism from the training staff, though it was immediately embraced by the grad teams and puppy raisers. As teams arrived at the hotel, those of us who had planned the event and were checking them in began to have doubts. 80 guide dog teams in one hotel? What were we thinking? Arriving dogs, on recognizing kennel buddies, puppy pals, trainers, or, best of all, their puppy raisers — their first families — momentarily forgot their manners and bounced, danced, and wagged with joy. Grads, meeting familiar friends and encountering new ones, were equally emotional. The dogs, at least, quickly remembered their excellent breeding and top-notch training and focused on getting their partners to their rooms. Which was no small challenge in the most confusing hotel I’ve ever seen.

Over the weekend, humans and dogs continued to amaze. An army of volunteers, primarily puppy raisers, escorted blind attendees to tables in the dining room and helped them navigate the extensive buffet meals. In sessions, anywhere from a dozen to eighty calm dogs relaxed under tables and at handlers’ feet, oblivious to distractions. They worked through bustling hallways and deftly steered around other teams, running children, concrete pillars, and tempting indoor gardens of lush vegetation.

The weekend was important for so many reasons. Puppy raisers, including some who have been raising and socializing puppies for more than twenty years, got to see living, breathing examples of how their hard work and devotion improves lives. Graduates got to meet the wonderful people who raise the puppies who become their partners. All of us met new friends (or finally met in person people we’d been communicating with for years!). Everyone got a better understanding of what it takes to turn a tiny puppy into a working guide.

This special event provided enough information and stories for several blog posts, which I’ll write and post over the next weeks. Most of all, it was an outstanding example of how capable, creative, and flexible dogs — and their human partners — truly are.

10 thoughts on “Amazing

  1. That weekend. That magical weekend will live in me forever. I am a puppy raiser. I never had the opportunity to see the pups work full circle. I am amazed at what these loving pups can do once they leave our care
    We introduce them to life and it’s possibilities. The trainers teach the pups how to handle life and the grads give the pups a chance to experience it with their soul mates.

    My heart is full of joy everytime I think of that weekend. Thank you to the grads for being so kind to us puppy raisers. Thank you to Guiding Eyes grad council and all that made this event happen. Never ever doubt the compassion, the humanity and the determination of this family. It is awesome!


  2. It was so awesome to be a part of this event. You are right, as puppy raisers, we don’t often get a chance to see our dogs mature into steadfast, capable team members. Watching all the guide dog teams work, play, and learn at the seminar was truly inspiring, and has continued to inspire me every day as I work with my pup!


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