March 11, 2013
When my dad told me that he was flying to San Francisco to pick up a dog, I was a little concerned. My parents often foster animals for their local humane society, and once again, their house was full. The last thing they needed was to pick up a dog to foster from out of state. I was really excited, though, when he explained what he was doing. He was volunteering for the Guide Dog Foundation, transporting the puppy from its breeding home to the handler that will prepare the pup for official training. The foundation relies on off duty airline employees, like my dad, who can transport their dogs across the country for free.
I knew nothing about the process for training guide dogs, so it was really interesting to hear about the organization from what little exposure he had to it. The foundation owns breeding pairs and breeds dogs for very specific qualities. My dad said that you could really tell that these puppies were different from your average dog. They were relaxed and comfortable through the entire trip. He is a total stranger to the puppies that he transports, and they happily go along with him as if the whole arrangement was their idea. They are relaxed and happy on the airplane ride, though they have never had the experience before. Then, when he gets to the puppy's new home, the puppy is equally content to be left with their new handler. These puppies are not overexcited, scared, or jumpy. They will turn into dogs that can handle any environment and lead their owner through any new experience.
It is not surprising that the foundation relies heavily on volunteers, since it costs roughly $50,000 dollars to raise and train these amazing animals. To top it all off, these guide dogs are given away at no cost to the person in need. That is amazing! So far, my dad has transported two puppies, and it was a wonderful experience. With an adorable puppy in tow, he got so much attention from employees and other travelers that he felt like a rock star. He was also very happy to find the opportunity to help his fellow human, as well as animals. He wrote me after his last trip saying, "My part in getting Pancho to his puppy trainer is only a small piece of what it takes to provide someone with a guide dog companion but I look forward to doing it whenever I can."
To learn more about guide dogs, visit the Dog Guide Foundation website and check out some of the resources that are available through the Library.
Here are some books on the subject of guide dogs:
- Trust the Dog by Gerri Hirshey
- Dogs of Courage by Lisa Rogak
- Morris and Buddy: The Story of the First Seeing Eye Dog by Becky Hall
- The Right Dog for the Job by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent
- Looking Out for Sarah by Glenna Lang
- The View From Under the Pew by Diane Winters Johnson
- Everyday Heroes by Sherry Bennett Warshauer