Locals raise puppies to be service dogs

Posted at 8:09 PM, Mar 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-08 20:09:58-05

If you have a dog, you know how smart they are. In fact, the American Psychological Association has concluded they can count and understand more than 150 words.

It's because of this intelligence that they're in high demand to provide service for people who need a little extra help and one local group of volunteers helps train these pups to be all that they can be.

“It’s awesome. Everything’s a learning experience. It’s my favorite thing I’ve done in high school so far.” said Megan Chapin, a volunteer, for the organization, ‘Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

She and her younger sister said they enjoy connecting with the animals and doing their part for the greater good.

“They help them cross the street, they can help them in their home. It’s so amazing to me that me raising just a little puppy can change someone’s life forever,” she said.

The foster care type organization gets local volunteers to help raise and socialize puppies who will eventually become service dogs for the blind.

“Currently we have about 40 in Cleveland and 400 around the nation,” said Betsy Dunn, volunteer puppy raiser and Event Chair for Guiding Eyes for the Blind. She continued, “Our puppy raisers come from all walks of life…we consider the socialization part of our dogs paramount. It’s so they have been there, done that.”

And that's just the beginning of the journey for these pups, after about a year, they're sent to New York for six months of formal intensive training.

It's exactly what the Chapin sisters are currently going through. Megan's dog is coming in, while Dana's dog is on his way out.

“It’s hard to have a dog doing up for IFT, because they’re leaving you, but you know they’re going to go to a great cause,” said Dana Chapin.

Tuesday night, the group is having a special fundraising event to recruit more foster care volunteers and raise awareness.

“People know that guide dogs come from puppies, but that process always seems to be a mystery to people about how did that dog grow up to be such a wonderful guide dog, and so, our real purpose tonight is awareness. There are no guide dogs without puppy raisers,” said Dunn.

The event will be held at Danny Boys in Broadview Heights and Chesterland from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m.