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We Love Our Puppy Raisers
Rutgers students volunteer with future Seeing Eye dogs
Beth Finke with her Seeing Eye dog, Harper.

I’ve been home three months with my new Seeing Eye dog Harper. He’s a two-year-old yellow bundle of Labrador energy, and not a day goes by where I don’t think of—and thank—the wonderful volunteer who raised him as a puppy. Harper and I trained for three weeks at the Seeing Eye last December. Before we left for home, our instructor read me Harper’s “puppy profile.” Each person who volunteers to raise a puppy for the Seeing Eye is asked to write up a little report. You know, to let us in on what our dogs lives were like before we met them.

Here’s an excerpt: Harper was attending classes at my university (including attending the graduation!), going on buses and trains, attending other club meetings, university equestrian team shows with 20-plus horses, a trip to the airport, going on a plane but not taking off, emergency vehicles, malls, stores, fairs, the beach (his favorite), on a boat, in pools, overnight charity events, elementary school presentations, a retirement/recovery home, soccer, football and hockey games.
Whew! Harper is one well-traveled dog, and he did all that even before he was a year-and-a-half-old! And yes, you read that right: He was raised on a college campus; he’s a Rutgers grad. An article on the Rutgers University Seeing Eye Puppy Raising Club website describes these generous students who volunteer their time to raise puppies for us.
“To truly stop and spend a few moments observing the volunteers of the Rutgers University Seeing Eye Puppy Raising Club, you’re struck too by their obvious affection for and commitment to their charges—cute, adorable puppies with names like Elroy, Yankee, Harper and Oz.”
Did you read that? The article mentions Harper! What a sweet little puppy he must have been; imagine the attention he got on campus. College students at Rutgers have been providing a welcoming home for Seeing Eye puppies since the year 2000, when the Rutgers chapter of the puppy-raising program began.
After leaving the Seeing Eye breeding station, seven- or eight-week old German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and crosses of these breeds are placed with puppy raisers until they are 16- to 18-months-old. Raisers train the puppies in basic obedience, house manners, how to walk on a leash, and expose the dogs to real-life situations they might encounter once placed with a blind person like me.
But back to Harper’s puppy profile: His puppy raiser said Harper loves squeaky toys, so we knew to give him some of those when he came home with me to Chicago. She also said that he loves being talked to in a singsong voice, so just imagine how much I sing to him now. My favorite part of Harper’s puppy profile: “He is the coolest dog I’ve ever had. His personality is a great combination of independence and affection.”
Amen to that. THANK YOU, Harper’s puppy raiser. And thanks to all the other wonderful, generous volunteer puppy raisers out there. You are our heroes.


Beth Finke's book, Hanni and Beth: Safe & Sound—about her bond with her Seeing Eye dog—won an ASPCA/Henry Bergh children's book award. Follow Hanni and Beth's travels on the Safe & Sound blog. bethfinke.wordpress.com

Photo by Maria Apone.

CommentsPost a Comment
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Submitted by BobAnonymous | April 5 2011 |

Great post -- fun to hear about the puppy raisers from someone who benefits so much from their hard wirk -- the eventual guide dog user.

Submitted by Beth Finke | April 5 2011 |

Yes. Harper really does keep me, well...safe & sound!

Submitted by Anonymous | April 5 2011 |

He was absolutely wonderful to know. Thanks for sharing this.

Submitted by Beth Finke | April 5 2011 |

...and he *still* is so wonderful to know --THANK YOU.

Submitted by Jamie | April 5 2011 |

I am so proud. I met Harper as a little tiny guy, as my son participated in the RUSEPRC for four years, and raised two puppies himself. What a fabulous story, it brings tears to my eyes to see Harper in the perfect place. May there be years of joy for you, Beth!

Submitted by Beth Finke | April 5 2011 |

Oh, I bet this handsome guy was a *very* cute puppy! Thanks for the sweet comment, Jamie.

Submitted by Anonymous | April 6 2011 |

Harper's raiser is a friend of mine, so I spent quite a bit of time with him when he was growing up. I remember how incredibly tiny he was as a pup, curled up in my lap as I studied for class. From the day he came to the RUSEPRC to the day he left, he was without a doubt one of the sweetest, most wonderful dogs I've ever met. Words can't describe how happy I am that he's out there, working as your new partner. I wish you many happy years together. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

Submitted by Shirley Drissel | April 6 2011 |

Thank you so much for sharing this. Our family is currently raising our 28th. puppy for TSE and reading articles like yours makes it all worth while.

Submitted by Anonymous | April 18 2011 |

Harper had to be one of my favorite dogs in the ENTIRE world. He was such a sweet heart, and just soo goofy. He was always a joy to be around :) It's nice to be able to read about the successes of our dogs ( as I am a member of the Rutgers University Seeing Eye Puppy Raising Club). Your were most definatly blessed with an awesome companion.

Submitted by anonymous | April 26 2011 |

A lot of service dogs in Canada are trained using "mixed methods," which is simply a euphemism for training which includes corporal punishment in addition to positive reinforcement training. What is the training protocol of the "Seeing Eye?"

Submitted by Lisa Wogan | April 26 2011 |

Visit our Open Thread tomorrow (on the home page), and you can ask Beth directly. She'll be online in the afternoon.

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