Wanted: Guiding-Eyes puppy raisers

Annual resolutions come in all shapes and sizes; some are more successful than others. Whether yours was already broken or is yet to be made, Guiding Eyes for the Blind's Puppy Raising Program gives area residents the opportunity to make a new resolution; become a volunteer puppy raiser and accept the love you will give and get from bringing a future guide dog into your home.

Guiding Eyes for the Blind is looking for people who want to become part of something bigger than themselves. The renowned nonprofit guide dog school is actively recruiting puppy raisers in the Addison and Rutland counties area-volunteers that take 8-week-old puppies into their homes, love, nurture, and educate them for a 12- to 16-month period before sending them off to their calling as a guide dog for a blind or visually impaired man or woman. For a person without sight, a Guiding Eyes dog provides a life changing independence.

Guide dogs aren't born with the skills to keep a blind person safe; they are carefully trained and prepared for the job. Guiding Eyes puppy raisers provide hours of patient teaching and numerous socialization journeys. For local resident Marilyn Sheldon, her hard work paid off when Stanley Heiniger graduated alongside his new guide dog Samantha, the tenth puppy she and her husband lovingly raised for Guiding Eyes.

Stanley Heiniger lost his sight due to keratokonus, a corneal disease. Samantha is Stanley's second guide dog from Guiding Eyes, and she is his constant travel companion. For Marilyn, knowing that Samantha provides Stanley with the freedom to continue his active lifestyle and ability to do what he loves most is the reward for their hard work.

Marilyn Sheldon, like 60 percent of Guiding Eyes raisers, is a repeat raiser. She has always been a dog lover and has been involved in the program since 1997. Currently she shares her home with her twelfth puppy - German shepherd Daphne. Lee Nordin, the program's director, said, "it's caring, dedicated people like Marilyn that are the 'heart and soul' of Guiding Eyes for the Blind."

The Guiding Eyes Puppy Raising Program is comprised of more than 400 volunteers from Maine to North Carolina. Puppy raisers come from all walks of life. The program includes couples, families with children, young adults, and senior citizens. Some already have pets of their own. Raisers live in urban, suburban, and rural areas - and in apartments, town-homes, and single family homes.

Puppy raising classes are held on alternating Sundays at the 4 Paws Academy, 2442 N Grove St., Rutland Town. Call 1-866-GEB-LABS or visit www.guidingeyes.org/volunteer/puppy-raising/ for additional information on the Puppy Raising Program.

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