WHAT'S IT LIKE
There are many people involved in producing a successful guide dog. Instrumental to this success are the 1,200+ raisers who donate their time and effort in caring for, socializing and training guide dog puppies.
Puppies are born in the kennels on the San Rafael campus in California. When they are 8-9 weeks old, they're ready for their first road trip. They say goodbye to their birthplace and embark on the first leg of their journey toward becoming Guide Dogs. They are loaded up in our "puppy truck" which is specially designed with their safety and comfort in mind. The truck makes dozens of trips throughout the year, and is driven by our own staff "puppy storks," who delivers the special cargo to the arms of eagerly waiting volunteer puppy raisers. It's an exciting day when our puppy truck comes to town and it visits a lot of towns!
A guide dog puppy spends about one year in the home of a raiser family. During this year the puppy learns basic commands as well as appropriate behaviors in the home and in public. Training meetings are held approximately twice a month for raisers and puppies. Raisers will take their guide dog puppy with them to work, school, restaurants, shopping malls, movie theaters, baseball parks, basketball arenas, football stadiums, and any number of places where a working guide may go.
After about 12-14 months, the guide dog puppy returns to Guide Dogs for the Blind to begin the formal training of guide work. Upon completion of approximately four months of intensive training the puppy, now a fully trained guide dog, is matched with a blind or visually impaired student. The new team undergoes about three weeks of extensive training to become a finely tuned pair.
On graduation day, the puppy raiser is given the opportunity to present his or her puppy to its new partner in an emotional ceremony for all. Graduation is the defining moment of all the work the raiser has put into the new guide dog. Emotions run high, but as a result of a year's worth of work and love gave to the puppy by its raiser, a new team has been born.