UA Club Says Hello and Goodbye to Puppies
The truck from Guide Dogs for the Blind became an emotional focal point for volunteer trainers letting go of their puppies and for other puppy raisers welcoming new arrivals.
It was quite a juxtaposition, a crowd torn with different emotions. As some people stepped outside into the rain with puffy, red eyes from the tears of saying goodbye, others gleamed with joy in anticipation of what was to come.
The objects of their greetings and farewells? Puppies.
Last Saturday, more than 100 volunteer trainers, or puppy raisers, from across the state gathered at Trinity Presbyterian Church on University Boulevard in Tucson for an annual statewide Guide Dogs for the Blind puppy-raising meeting.
The event was hosted by Paws for the Cause, a 4-H club that is part of University of Arizona Cooperative Extension. In the club, dogs are raised from the ages of 8 weeks to 14 months to be guide dogs for the blind or visually impaired.
The all-day meeting included formal training sessions from Guide Dogs for the Blind on proper delivery of treats and helping puppies work through distractions. The day ended at the "puppy truck," a specially equipped van that arrived at the site with new puppies to be raised by people around the state.
At the same time, other dogs were "recalled," or loaded into the truck, to return to Guide Dogs for the Blind facilities in northern California for their formal training.
Four of the recalled dogs were raised by UA students.
"Dogs that have been with their puppy raiser for the past 12 to 15 months are now going back to Guide Dogs to start their formal training to become a working guide," said Joanna Norman, co-leader of Paws for the Cause. "It's kind of a bittersweet time. It's exciting to see your puppy go off to 'college,' but it's also hard to say goodbye."
Raisers are responsible for teaching the puppies good manners and basic obedience. They also train the dogs on how to socialize in busy environments, preparing them for life as guide dogs.
As part of that training, the dogs often are seen on the UA campus with their raisers in classroom and office environments.
"Every guide dog is different and the way that they integrate into your school life is different, depending on that personality, but for sure, my guide dogs are always more popular than I am on campus," said Lindsey Chew, who has raised two guide dogs so far.
Danielle Giannotti, a graduate student in the UA's master's program in counseling, said her dog was always welcomed into class by professors and classmates — and that they, too, were sad over the pet's recall.
Chew, a junior in the School of Mind, Brain and Behavior, said that by becoming a puppy raiser, she could make a tangible impact on the community while doing something compatible with her interest in neuroscience.
Although her dog, Juan, didn't board the puppy truck, she knows the day is coming in the next two months.
"I don’t want to think about it too much because I'll definitely be sad afterwards," Chew said. "But I know that he definitely has bigger career opportunities, and I have really high hopes for him. He's a great dog, and I'm excited to see what he can do."
To learn more about Paws for the Cause, read this UANews story.
For more on how to train a guide dog and be connected with Paws for the Cause, call Guide Dogs for the Blind at 800-295-4050.
University of Arizona in the News