People across the world will come together for International Guide Dog Day on Wednesday, April 27. It is a day to celebrate the dogs and the patient and talented people who train them, and to pay tribute to the important role the dogs and their trainers play in society.
Brad Stocking, who grew up in North Central Phoenix and graduated from Sunnyslope High School, has been a guide dog puppy raiser for five years and currently is training his seventh dog, a 5-month-old black lab named Uni.
Stocking says while the act of training a guide dog is very rewarding, it is somewhat heart-wrenching to say goodbye once the dog is ready for its more formalized training.
Stocking is working with Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB), a not-for-profit organization founded in 1942 that is committed to partnering guide dogs with blind or visually impaired individuals in the United States and Canada. GDB never charges a fee for their guide dog, any training, or veterinary bills and is committed to the health of their guides for life. Their commitment is 100-percent funded through private donations. GDB receive no government funding.
GDB has two local puppy raising clubs in the Phoenix metro area, including Phoenix Guide Dog Raisers, Inc., a nonprofit corporation established to support guide dog puppy raisers affiliated with GDB. Phoenix Guide Dog Raisers’ goal is to produce successful, working guide dogs by planning and organizing stimulating social events for both puppies and raisers, weekly training sessions, and informative workshops. For more information, visit http://phxguide dograisers.org.
Guide Dogs of the Valley is another local puppy raising group. Contact Deborah at 623-512-3235 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Stocking explains that puppy raisers are their own special breed of people. “You love them, train them and work with them until they are about 15 months old and then send them back, which can be hard,” he says. “The reward comes when the puppy graduates and you get to present the puppy to their new partner.”
No prior experience is necessary to become a puppy raiser with GDB. You’ll receive your puppy at approximately 8 weeks old, and he/she will return for formal training between 13 and 15 months old. Puppy raisers are responsible for teaching their puppies good manners and basic obedience.
You can have other pets in your home and if you are not able to commit to raising a puppy full time, there are still other ways to get involved with your local puppy club, such as puppy sitting.
GDB’s puppy raising program complements many FFA, 4H, home schooling, high school, and college programs. All ages can participate in puppy raising, however primary puppy raisers must be at least 9 years of age.
Call the Puppy Raising office at 800-295-4050 or visit the website at www.guidedogs.com to download the Puppy Raising Interest form.