Training guide dogs amidst the pandemic
Steering through big crowds and public places is all part of the job for Havela and Lori, who are guide dogs in training.
Local puppy raiser Michelle Lampson said she would meet up with other local puppy raisers at least once a week.
"We would meet at a grocery store, bowling alley or airport and practice basic commands with the whole group with everyone who has a guide dog," said Lampson.
Now Lampson said she's learning to guide their way through this pandemic.
"We've had to do our training at home and do fun things in the yard and take them on long walks," added Lampson.
As early as 2 months old, the dogs are trained basic commands and social skills.
After a year, they head back to Guide Dogs for the Blind for more extensive training.
"That's either in San Rafael, California or Oregon," explained Lampson. "After they go there, they get officially trained, they're there for about 4 months before going with someone who is visually impaired."
Puppy raisers usually have one dog a time, but with facilities closed....adjustments had to be made.
"Lori was actually ready to go with a person who was visually impaired. She passed all her training," said Lampson. "so the facility opens up again, I get a call once a week from her official trainer from the organization. They tell me what she's good at and the things to work on with her. "
Christine Benninger is the CEO for Guide Dogs of the Blind.
She said community support is needed more than ever for the nonprofit.
"We were not able to train clients because we weren't able to get them on campus nor were we able to come to them," explained Benninger.
Benninger said any help is appreciated, including face masks for their trainers, as they plan to reopen their facilities in the upcoming months.
"I'm really proud of our staff because of the lock-down, we had to think of creative ways to support our clients," added Benninger. "We still have 22,000 working teams that need to be supported."
For now Lampson is brushing up on their skills, all to make sure the dogs are ready for the next step on their journey to become guide dogs.
"I've loved it, it's been great," said Lampson. "It is hard to have a puppy for a year and then to give them away, but once you see them with a visually impaired person, makes you feel like it's all worth it to see them help someone in need."
The nonprofit is always looking for puppy raisers and puppy sitters.
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