By: Emily Mason (2014 GDB Puppy Raising Scholarship Recipient for Overall Achievement)
Raising guide dog puppies has a way of impacting people. Whether that person is me, my family, or whoever receives the puppy, there is no doubt in my mind that my puppies have impacted the lives of many.
I think those that are the most directly impacted by my puppies have been the people who have received them as guides. A wonderful man named Terry received my first puppy in training, Virgil. Terry live-in Oklahoma with his wife, three daughters, and two granddaughters. Terry is an amazing man, who I still keep in touch with today. Virgil impacted Terry because before Terry received Virgil, he had been living without a guide for months. When Terry arrived at home with Virgil, he and Virgil began adjusting to one another, becoming an unbeatable team, and creating a strong bond. Terry and Virgil have gone on a few backpacking trips and frequently go sailing.
My third puppy, Tommy, who I raised as a transfer puppy, has significantly impacted his handler, Brian. Before Tommy, Brian had never had a guide dog before and had relied on a cane and the help of others to travel. Brian’s life was significantly changed when he received Tommy, because he can now travel alone and be independent, with the thought in mind that Tommy is by his side, watching for any hazards.
Guide Dogs for the Blind has also significantly impacted my community. Virgil was the first guide dog puppy raised in my town, Oakdale, in a very long time, and most businesses were unsure about the program and having a dog in their facility. However, by introducing them to Virgil and explaining the program, Virgil was allowed access to all the businesses in town! Virgil helped pave the way for the ten puppies that have been raised in Oakdale since.
Another huge impact GDB had on my community was at my school. Virgil was also the first dog to attend Oakdale High School, and not long into my sophomore year, Virgil was ready to join me. My school and superintendent were unsure at first about having a dog on campus, but I was fortunate enough to have had a vice principal who had previously taught at a school that allowed puppies ingraining, so he helped me get the puppy raising project approved at my school. Having a puppy at school was a challenge at first, being that so many people were unaware of the etiquette toward a puppy in training. It was also a hard task adjusting to all of the students being around the puppy. But Virgil set the standard, and five more puppies have since followed in his paws.
Raising guide dog puppies has taught me many things, and over time, it has helped me grow. Raising guide dog puppies has taught me to be responsible. Since caring for a puppy is a lot like caring for a child, I have had a lot more responsibility than most of my friends. Raising puppies has helped me learn to put the care of others before myself - taking care of a puppy can be a full time job. Raising guide dog puppies has taught me the feeling of accomplishment through reaching goals, whether those goals are successfully teaching a puppy “down,” or having a puppy become a guide dog. GDB has taught me what it is like to accomplish a long-term goal. Raising guide dog puppies has helped me understand the gift of giving, because no matter how much I love each of my dogs, there’s no doubt in my mind that I want nothing more than to see them succeed. It was truly amazing feeling to stand on stage and hand Virgil’s leash over to Terry.
Lastly, raising guide dog puppies has majorly impacted my future career goals. Since I was a small child, my dream was to become a veterinarian. I was fortunate enough to be secreted for GDB’s summer internship program where I got to work in the vet clinic for two weeks. Working alongside the veterinarians and clinic staff was like a dream, it is a time in my life I will always cherish. I had such an amazing time working and learning from such experienced professionals. My internship helped confirm my goal - becoming a veterinarian is no longer the dream of a small child but a goal set by a young adult. Being alongside the veterinary team at GDB helped me know for sure that being a vet is what I want to do with my life.
Guide Dogs for the Blind has given me many life experiences and taught me many things. I have been able to watch my community and school grow as they became accepting to guide dog puppies. Through this wonderful experience I have been able to grow as a person and experience the amazing feeling of being able to give someone a gift like a guide dog. GDB is a wonderful organization, and I’m so grateful to have been a part of it.