The Seeing Eye needs ‘puppy raisers’ to help foster guide dogs in training
There are many ways to perform community service in New Jersey – including caring for a puppy. The Seeing Eye, a nonprofit based in Morristown, is in the midst of recruiting more families to help.
Warm and cuddly Claudia is 7-weeks-old. Quiet and calm Abraham is 7-months. Both are being raised to one day work as guide dogs. And both are living with what The Seeing Eye calls, "puppy raisers."
“They’re a lot like newborns. It’s a lot at first, but so worth it,” says puppy raiser Gina O’Rourke. "To hear the graduates talk about what difference these dogs make in their lives makes it all worth it."
O’Rourke and her daughter Sydney are raising Abraham. He is their third dog.
Claudia is the 24th dog that Brook Krajewski and her family are fostering, prepping the dogs to see for those who cannot. Krajewski says she has tried to expose her dogs to as many life circumstances as possible.
"They've traveled down the Metro and they've gone into the U.S. Capitol. Worked in the U.S. Senate before…Getting these dogs well-rounded and exposed is incredible,” she says.
The Seeing Eye has about 350 families working as puppy raisers. But the organization says it would like to get back to 500 families.
Jill Jaycox oversees puppy development.
“They’re doing the housebreaking, teaching good house manners,” she says.
After raising a puppy, volunteers will have to turn them over for formal guide dog training.
If the dog passes the training, it will be matched with a person in need. The Seeing Eye says 60% of the dogs pass training. Some are rejected because of health issues or because they are too friendly. Those dogs often go into law enforcement or are returned to the foster family.
Sydney O’Rourke says she is expecting success from her dog Abraham.
“I think he will pass. Even if he doesn’t make a guide dog, he’ll do something else,” she says.
Letting go of a pet is not easy, but once puppy raiser sees them helping those who are blind, they say that it is worth it.
“Oh my gosh, I’m going to get teary,” says Krajewski.
The guide dogs are allowed to work for eight to 10 years before they're retired. The Seeing Eye has been placing dogs with those who are blind since 1929.