Friday, December 11, 2015

GDB Puppy Raising Youth Scholarship Recipient: Hailey Elias Essay - Changing Lives One Puppy at a Time

Guide Dogs have a way of changing the world around them for the better. Whoever the dog is placed with, that person’s life is changed. It is not only the visually impaired who are impacted by these dogs, it is the family and community in which the puppy is raised that also benefits from a puppy in training.

I received my first guide dog puppy, Darice, when I was ten. I was one of the only raisers in my small town at that time. Everywhere I went, people stopped me on the street and asked me about my puppy. I was able to educate my community at a young age about puppy raising for Guide Dogs for the Blind. Within a few years, there were several people from my town that became raisers. Darice paved the way for many successful guides that were raised in my town. Darice went on to become a breeder
and whelped three litters and produced several guides.

Some raisers say that raising guide dogs is like potato chips, you can’t just have one. True to form, when I turned in Darice for her formal training, I couldn’t bear to leave empty handed. That day, I received my second puppy, Atlanta. Atlanta didn’t make it as a guide dog because she has a soft trachea, but is now my beloved pet. She has brought me so much happiness, and because she has impeccable house manners, has modeled good behavior for each puppy that has come into my house. I like to think of Atlanta as my co-raiser!

Hailey (wearing a pink t-shirt) poses next to her yellow Lab guide dog puppy (wearing the GDB green puppy coat).

My third puppy was Skyla, Darice’s daughter. Skyla was career changed in phase six for traffic sensitivity and relieving. However, Skyla has impacted one of our country’s heroes. When Skyla was in formal training, my family learned of a local veteran that suffered severe brain damage from explosions in Iraq who wanted a well behaved dog that he could train to be his service dog. We immediately knew that Skyla would be perfect for him because she is so gentle and calm. When we heard the news that Skyla was career changed, arrangements were made that day for her to be transferred to this hero’s home. Skyla now accompanies him to the hospital for his rehabilitation and is by his side when he is recovering from his numerous strokes and surgeries. I was so proud and honored to be able to provide a well trained dog that can help ease the suffering of someone who served our country so valiantly.

My fourth and fifth puppies, Vivaldi and Yolo, greatly impacted their visually impaired partners’ lives because both of my puppies went to first time handlers. Before, they relied on the use of a cane and the help of others for mobility. Vivaldi’s handler lives in Sacramento, California and works for the Braille and Audio library for the blind. Watching Vivaldi work with his handler was like watching a fine tuned car maneuver through an obstacle course. They walked speedily everywhere! I finally fully understood how much a guide dog can impact someone’s mobility. His handler doesn’t have to worry nearly as much about hazards around him with Vivaldi’s watchful paws guiding his every move. Yolo became a guide dog for a man in Scottsdale, Arizona. When I met the man he went to, my heart broke listening to his story. He had recently lost his wife and was mostly housebound because of his blindness. With Yolo, he now confidently goes on two hour walks around his neighborhood almost every day and is much more active in his community. He and Yolo have developed a very strong bond, and it is touching to receive updates from them occasionally hearing about their new adventures.

My sixth puppy, Porter, also went on to become a working guide. He just graduated this March with a man who lives in Fort Worth, Texas. His handler has had a guide dog before, and was nervous about making the transition to a new guide, but told me that he couldn’t have more happy with Porter. Once again, I was blown away with how much a guide dog changed someone’s life.

Hailey (wearing a pink t-shirt) kisses her yellow Lab guide dog puppy who is sticking out its tongue (wearing the GDB green puppy coat).

At the moment, I am raising Vashti, a wonderful dog who has all the makings of becoming a successful guide. Every time Vashti is in her jacket and I look down at her, I am reminded of how much her sweet little face will impact someone in a life changing way. I am a different person because of puppy raising, it has made me acutely aware of how much an ordinary person like me can impact the world. I hope to continue to raise puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind as long as I am physically able. I am enrolled in Sacramento State’s Mechanical Engineering program, and I can’t wait to introduce Vashti to college life. I know it will challenge and grow both of us. It is my hope that wherever my life will lead me, I will be able to have a guide dog puppy by my side.

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