By Dr. Julie Damron
Stockton Record November 7, 2009
As pet caretakers we value our animals for companionship, affection, entertainment, exercise, and so much more. What if your daily activities depended on the help of your cherished friend? This column is dedicated to the generous work of an organization that provides life changing canines for many in need, Guide Dogs For The Blind. Our clinic has cared for some of these canines, and I have observed the amazing partnership and independence these dogs bring to people's lives.
What is Guide Dogs for the Blind, and what services do they provide? Guide Dogs for the Blind provides enhanced mobility to qualified individuals who are blind or visually impaired, through partnership with dogs whose unique skills are developed and nurtured by dedicated volunteers and a professional staff. Established in 1942, Guide Dogs for the Blind continues its dedication to quality student training services and extensive life-long follow-up support for graduates. The programs are made possible through the teamwork of staff, volunteers and generous donors. Services are provided to people from the United States and Canada at no cost to them. There is no age limit for services, and travel to and from the campuses is also free. This organization has more than 1000 volunteers. About 10,000 people in the United States and Canada have Guide Dogs.
The training program is started almost at birth, and is lovingly referred to as a life-long process. The dogs begin to learn house manners and obedience at 6-8 weeks of age. Formal guidework training starts at 15-18 months, and lasts for 4-5 months. At about 1.5 years of age, the canines are paired with their human companions. The duo train together for 2-4 weeks. The training is then more personalized for each situation; and the Guide Dogs organization is there for support each step of the way. Currently there are ten accredited training schools in the United States.
There are many ways that you can assist Guide Dogs For The Blind. Volunteers are always welcome in many areas. Homes and people are needed to help raise the puppies. The campuses in San Rafael, California and Portland Oregon also need volunteers. Breeding Stock Custodians are needed, as are homes for retired Guide Dogs. Financial assistance is always appreciated, as are marketing and community awareness assistance. Please see the official website for more information www.guidedogs.com