(Editor’s note: Why would someone raise a puppy only to give it away? Bethany Robinson ’16 and her puppy-in-training are common sights on BU’s campus. The marketing major/art studio minor from Carlisle shares her experiences with The Seeing Eye.)
I started volunteering as a puppy raiser for The Seeing Eye because of family friends who were part of the 4-H club for this wonderful organization. I was in eighth grade, and I begged my mom to let me raise a dog. She finally let me do it, even though it would be a lot of work for her, too.
But first I had to attend monthly puppy club meetings in Cumberland County to learn how to properly train one of these dogs. After attending a few meetings, I applied for a dog and had the choice of Labrador retrievers, Golden retrievers or German shepherds, all bred in The Seeing Eyes’ facility.
Since 1929, The Seeing Eye has partnered with people who are blind to enhance their independence, dignity and self-confidence. More than 16,000 specially bred and trained dogs have brought mobility, safety and self-sufficiency to over 8,000 men and women. So far, my family has trained five dogs.
The first dog I received, a black lab named Mallory, was 7-weeks-old when we got her and stayed with us until she was 14-months-old. She was a spunky girl and very smart. We had the job of potty training her, teaching her basic commands and manners and socializing her in public settings. We had to be repetitive and consistent so she knew when we told her “park time” while she was outside on the grass it meant it was time to go to the bathroom.
Right away, we started taking her to public places so she got used to the environments where she might go with a blind person – places like church, the store, school, sports events, the movies and much more. After she left my family, she went on to a medical test. If she passed, she would be chosen for breeding or professional training. She was picked for training and, to this day, she is out and about working with her blind master.
After Mallory, I raised a golden retriever named Betty, who later was paired with a blind person. My sister raised two yellow labs, Robi, who went on to guide someone, and Bond, who failed the medical test and returned to my family as a wonderful house pet.
Then, during 2014-15, I raised Vivian, the first dog I raised at college. She is a wonderful girl and I took her almost everywhere with me – to class, work, church, stores and much more. The university worked really well with me by letting Vivian into every building on campus because, by law, even though she was just in training she was still allowed in any public place. Vivian left me in early July to go back for further training at The Seeing Eye and, this fall, I returned to campus with my fourth dog, a German shepherd.
All of the dogs I have raised are trained in the same way because they are all being trained to guide someone. I know what I am doing is a key component to their actual job as a guide dog and was excited to share my story as an intern in the donor and public relations department at The Seeing Eye in Morristown, N.J., this summer.
You could say I have a huge heart for The Seeing Eye. •
By Bethany Robinson ’16