At any given time, there are more than 250 GDA puppies-in-training being raised by volunteer puppy raisers throughout Southern and Central California, as well as some parts of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Colorado and Montana. Puppy raisers range from families with kids, to empty-nesters, from full-time workers, to retirees, and from people with pets, to those who haven’t had a pet in many years. But they all have one thing in common; the desire to raise a puppy that will, hopefully, one day go on to help a blind individual lead a life of greater independence and mobility.
Our puppies leave GDA to live with their puppy raisers at 7 to 8 weeks of age. These volunteers have agreed to and are responsible for teaching basic obedience and socializing their puppy for the next 16 to 18 months. With the support of GDA and their regional puppy raiser groups (11 in total), the puppies learn how to walk properly on a leash, sit, stay, lie down and come when called, along with having impeccable house manners. To socialize their puppies, the raisers take them just about everywhere they go and expose them to as many different situations as possible. When the puppy is about a year and a half, the puppy raisers bring them back to GDA, where they begin their formal training. This is when they learn the actual harness commands and how to lead a blind person.
While out and about with their adorable, irresistible puppies in their bright yellow puppy-in-training jackets, puppy raisers attract people’s attention and pique their interest in the program, the school and the role of the puppy raiser. And one of the most frequently asked questions is, “What made you decide to become a puppy raiser?”
So why do these wonderful people, for whom we are so grateful and without whom we would not have the successful program that we do, decide to dedicate themselves to raising a puppy knowing they will have to give her/him up? We asked many of our current puppy raisers how they respond to that question. Several responses appear on page 2. While we were able to include quite a few of their responses, we could not include them all due to space limitations. We want to take this opportunity to thank all of those who responded and all of our past and present puppy raisers for their incredible dedication and commitment to GDA and our puppies.
Why They Became Puppy Raisers…
After 27 years of being involved with GDA, we certainly remember why we applied to be puppy raisers. It’s the fact that we love dogs and thought we could possibly help someone who needed a “partner” to guide them through their everyday experiences. How rewarding it has been and how thankful we are that a friend suggested we get involved.
- Jacque & Jack Butler
I wanted to be a puppy raiser since I was a teenager in England and watched the dogs in harness walking through our village learning how to be guides. Took me almost 60 years, but better late than never to follow my passion. I have completed three pups and, who knows, might raise more!
- Barbara Blake
Almost five years ago, our 15-yearold daughter, Sammy, investigated puppy raising as a project she could take on to make a difference. We soon realized that it was truly a family project which we all loved and felt such passion for. Now on our fi fth puppy, we are trying to make a difference – one puppy at a time.
- Sherrie & Matt Wette
When our family dog passed away I decided I wanted to do something that had been in the back of my mind for many years – to raise a special service dog. We attended a GDA graduation and became reacquainted with old friends who were raising a guide dog puppy. The rest is history. We applied for a puppy and have subsequently raised three wonderful labs. Why do we do it – take a moment to speak with a puppy raiser or talk with a recipient of one of the GDA dogs, and see what a wonderful difference these magnifi cent dogs have made in their life.
- Ronni & Michael Mayer
My friend Andrea has been blind from birth, and over the years, I have had the pleasure of watching her amazing guide dogs work. I always told her that if I got to a place in life where I could puppy raise I would. I am currently raising my third GDA puppy.
- Jill Werner
My dear friend has a guide dog and when I saw how much her life was changed for the better, I wanted to help make that possible for more people.
- Lisa Gilford
My son wasn’t comfortable with dogs but I knew he would love one given the chance. I fi gured if he didn’t, I would raise one GDA puppy without his help and stop after that. After 10 minutes with our puppy, he was smitten, and it’s been a love-fest ever since. We want to keep raising guide dog puppies as a family!
- Denise, Sam and Aidan Buckner
Bryan was 13 years old when he told me that he wanted to raise a guide dog puppy. He had been exposed to a guide dog puppy while in elementary school by the school librarian. I asked him why and this is what he told me: “Mom, I have thought about this a lot. We take and take all of our lives, and I’ve decided that I want to do something to give something back to someone else, to make their life better.” When he told me this, I found myself thinking, “In this day and age, here is a 13-year-old who is not thinking just about himself, but of others.” How could I say no?
- Karen Warloe
After seeing how hugely having a guide dog can impact someone’s life, we wanted very much to assist GDA in being able to provide dogs to those interested in receiving them. Our children were grown; how much harder could raising puppies be? Little did we realize we would be signing up for such a rewarding and life-enriching experience. Now we don’t know how we managed without these precious little beings in our life.
- Rebbecca Biging
After a year of volunteering at the humane society and fostering small sick dogs I needed something more to give back to the community I was invited by a friend to do the Ride for Guides. It took me two years and several visits to GDA to bring my husband on board. He has embraced the worthy cause of giving back to the community, as well as giving a blind person a better quality of life.
- Liz Adams
We are very excited to be a part of such an amazing program. These dogs have an important job ahead of them and they will be quite a blessing to someone who cannot see.
- Laura Paxson
My desire to be a puppy raiser started when I was a child and now, after many years, this wish has fi nally come to pass. I know if I were blind, I would desperately want a guide dog and I know there can only be guide dogs if there are puppy raisers to raise them.
- Fiona Nelson
I have always volunteered in some way, whether it was for my kids’ school or when they were involved in 4-H. Now that the kids are grown and gone what was going to be my next adventure? Years ago, I remembered seeing Guide Dogs of America at the Ventura County Fair. Well, there was no question where my service could now benefi t someone else. With each graduation I attend, it always reminds me why I’m doing what I truly enjoy doing.
- Missy Stayton
It wasn’t about me…it was about hoping to better the life of another individual.
- Nancy Totta
I became a puppy raiser simply because I love dogs and didn’t think I could have one as a pet. I was looking for something to do with my life, and a good friend said, “What is your passion?” I said, “Dogs.” She said, “Why don’t you raise a guide dog puppy?” I said, “I can’t, I work.” She said, “Blind people work.” I said, “But I live in a condo.” She said, “Blind people live in condos.” I said “But I have cats.” She said, “Blind people have cats.” And there is where it started!
- Laurel Schuman
Back in 1990, a local newscaster was doing a story at GDA and how they needed puppy raisers. My roommate and I were both ill and were home watching the news. We talked about it and contacted GDA to become puppy raisers. I continue to puppy raise to this day.
- Judi Gomez