Thomasson: raising future guide dogs offers a fun volunteer opportunity

Raising a puppy to be a guide dog offers a fun opportunity to volunteer. (submitted photo)

Imagine getting a smart, adorable, 8-week-old puppy, being able to take it with you everywhere you go and getting free obedience lessons for a year and half? Welcome to puppy raising a future guide dog for the blind.

Walking around town with one of my dogs, I’m often asked about puppy raising guide dogs. There are approximately 10,000 working guide dogs in the US, most of them trained by one of the dozen non-profit guide dog schools that breed, train and donate guide dogs to the blind.

A volunteer puppy raiser “fosters” a dog from 8-12 weeks of age until they are 13-18 months old, when they are returned to the guide dog school to learn the actual guide work for about six months before they are placed with a blind guide dog user.

As many of us dog-lovers know, raising a young puppy is a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. Because the puppy can go everywhere with you, you get so much more time to train and socialize the dog than you would with your pet. And, with monthly training and socializing activities from the guide dog school, you get great advice and support.

Since most of my volunteer puppy raising was during my travel-heavy consulting career, I often took my dogs to LA so they had plenty of exposure to very busy urban environments as well as planes, trains, buses and taxi cabs.

Many of my clients enjoyed the puppies so much they actually requested I bring them to meetings. It is just plain fun and a great way to volunteer when you have a busy schedule.

There are three guide dog schools with puppy raising programs in Arizona. If you would like to volunteer with some puppy love, check them out:

  • Guide Dogs of the Desert: guidedogsofthedesert.org
  • Guide Dogs for the Blind: guidedogs.com
  • Eye Dog Foundation: eyedogfoundation.org

Editor’s Note: Anna Thomasson is a Paradise Valley resident and candidate for Town Council.

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