|Nancy and Don Bloyer with guide dog puppy January|
Nancy Bloyer Memorial Fund Scholarship – Winner for Outstanding Essay: Laura Marchi
How has your experience in raising a GDB puppy specifically impacted someone else in your life or in your community?
I hop out of my car, dressed in a suit, purse over my arm, expertly avoiding an ever-present Oregon mud puddle. My heels click as I walk around to the tailgate, leading out a puppy whose tail is wagging. He has no regard for the wet weather or my nice clothes and hops out - right into the puddle I just avoided. I sigh, looking at the mud spots on my skirt. Luckily, I’m prepared for puppy antics. I pull a wet wipe out of my bag and clean off my suit and the rambunctious puppy’s paws before heading into the courthouse, laughing to myself.
Volunteer work has been a source of learning and satisfaction for me for many years. My most fulfilling volunteer job has been as a Puppy Raiser for Guide Dogs for the Blind. One of my favorite things about puppy raising is that I can participate in training and socializing my puppy while going about my normal life. It makes for a very flexible schedule, at least once the puppy is reliably house trained! I also devote my time to a local program called Roseburg Area Youth Services (R.A.Y.S.) Youth Court. Through this program, I serve as an attorney for high school and middle school students who have committed first offense misdemeanors, such as possession of alcohol or marijuana, petty theft, or harassment. I have been working for both organizations for four years.
Part of my job as an attorney for Youth Court is to serve as a mentor to troubled teens, but it can be really hard to connect with the teens that are assigned to jury duty as a sanction for their offense. Without meaning to, I often found myself taking the easy route and socializing with the other volunteers. It felt like my conversations with the sanctioned teens tended to end before they had begun. I wanted to reach out, but it was always hard to connect. Then, one day I came in to volunteer with the puppy I was raising for Guide Dogs, a fluffy golden retriever who was bright eyed, friendly, and had a tail that could clear a coffee table in under a second. As I began to wade my way through the cafeteria, kids perked up, staring and whispering. Some of these were kids that I had never seen look up from their phones or take off their headphones. These were the teens who usually stared listlessly at walls, annoyed or ashamed that they were here serving out their community service sanctions. They normally refused or avoided talking to me, but now they were looking at me and my dog. They began to tentatively ask questions and pet my puppy. I ended up sitting next to a girl that I had always wanted to speak to. After hearing her case for the first time and meeting her less than supportive parents, I wanted to help in some way if she would only let me talk heart to heart with her. She absolutely adored the golden puppy, and it was only a few weeks later that she began to open up to me and others, take advice from us, and really let her guard down. She’s now a strong attorney in the program, and has plans to graduate high school and enter college. It was the puppy that opened the pathway of communication, but it allowed me to make the decision to step up and make a dedicated effort to speak with her.
My leader, Terri Jo, always says that our puppies have a purpose. Even when they do not make it to be a working Guide, they will leave their mark in this world. Some dogs are meant to be Guides, to serve as a light to their handlers. But others serve as a beacon of hope to those in our communities that least expect it. This golden pup helped this girl long before he would ever be old enough to become a Guide, and to me, that is the true power of what we do with these puppies.
When you are in public with an irresistible puppy wearing a green Guide Dogs for the Blind training vest, everyone wants to talk to you. I have chosen a career in engineering, but being a public ambassador for Guide Dogs for the Blind has really helped me become a strong communicator and allowed me to look at my long term goals critically. I’m going to Oregon State University in the fall and I plan to continue as an active volunteer in the Guide Dogs program. I want to improve people’s lives and shape the world through engineering. Guide Dogs for the Blind and R.A.Y.S. Youth Court have opened my mind to the needs of different groups of people. Using both my passion for mathematics that I have demonstrated through school and my passion for helping others that I have developed through these volunteering opportunities, I have the tools to make change happen and apply my skills to my career goals.
|Laura Marchi poses with Kristoff|