There are many people involved in producing a successful guide dog. Instrumental to this success are the 1,200+ raisers who donate their time and effort in caring for, socializing and training guide dog puppies. A small, but significant group of puppy raisers lives in the Phoenix metropolitan area, known as Phoenix Guide Dog Raisers, Inc. This group works in affiliation with Guide Dogs for the Blind, Inc.
Guide Dogs for the Blind, Inc. was founded in 1942 in an effort to assist wounded servicemen returning from WWII without their sight. Sergeant Leonard Faulk was paired with a German Shepherd named Blondie to become the first serviceman to graduate from Guide Dogs for the Blind, Inc.
Guide Dogs for the Blind, Inc. utilizes Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and Labrador/Golden crosses. Puppies of these breeds are born in the kennels on the San Rafael campus in California. When the puppies are approximately eight weeks old, they are ready to be placed with their raiser families.
A guide dog puppy spends about one year in the home of a raiser family. During this year the puppy learns basic commands as well as appropriate behaviors in the home and in public. Training meetings are held approximately twice a month for raisers and puppies. Raisers will take their guide dog puppy with them to work, school, restaurants, shopping malls, movie theaters, baseball parks, basketball arenas, football stadiums, and any number of places where a working guide may go.
After a year the guide dog puppy returns to Guide Dogs for the Blind to begin the formal training of guide work. Upon completion of approximately four months of intensive training the puppy, now a fully trained guide dog, is matched with a blind or visually impaired student. The new team undergoes three weeks of extensive training to become a finely tuned pair.
On graduation day the puppy raiser is afforded the opportunity to present his or her puppy to its new partner in an emotional ceremony for all. Graduation is the defining moment of all the work the raiser has put into the new guide dog. Emotions run high, but as a result of a year’s worth of work and love given the puppy by its raiser, a new team has been born.