I was 15 years old when my grandfather moved in with my family. He was 93, blind, deaf and didn’t have use of his hand because of his neuropathy. Although we had been raising guide dog puppies since I was 11, I never fully appreciated what a service dog could do for people with disabilities until I lived with my grandfather on a full time basis.
My sister started raising a guide dog puppy as a senior in high school. While watching her raise Dominic, then I as helped with Melissa, Huey, Joseph, and Dean, I made the decision to try to raise a puppy on my own. I co-raised Waylon with my parents, and this year, finally, am raising Burke, on my own.
Our guide dog puppies would go over to my grandfather, and he would reach out to stroke them, and that action seemed to make him very happy and content. Although he didn’t want a guide dog, because of his age and inability to walk, he was happily entertained by our raising of them and I could see how great it would have been for him to have had a guide dog of his own when he was younger. I take raising more seriously now, because I can see the incredible help a service dog would be for people with loss of sight, limbs, wheelchair bound individuals and even those with PTSD.
I have been accepted to Georgia Institute of Technology, and will be studying Materials Science Engineering with a Biomaterials emphasis. I want to create materials that will help individuals like my grandfather by replacing failing organs and other body parts with man-made synthetic materials that will help them live more easily with their disabilities.
Raising guide dog puppies has influenced me in many ways. I have learned a tremendous amount of patience, and how to put another creature’s needs before my own. I have learned leadership and how to create boundaries when taking Burke to school and work, and learned teaching by explaining to other students how to act and react to people and their service dogs. I have had to be strong, and although sometimes feel uncomfortable with enforcing the rules, I’ve benefited by having to do so.