During the holidays, Guide Dogs of America (GDA) launched a hearty campaign to solicit donations and volunteers for the organization, one of the nation’s leading training and learning centers for guide dogs. And while the holidays are over, GDA officials hope you’ll keep its mission top of mind.
Through the work of GDA volunteers, staff and trainers, hundreds of blind and visually impaired people have been able to train with guide dogs to become more independent, confident and mobile. Guide dogs can help owners stop at curbs and navigate related elevation changes, avoid obstacles and navigate crowds. Trainers also teach guide dogs “intelligent disobedience,” or how to refuse a command if complying would endanger the owner.
Donations to GDA can support microchipping a puppy, acquiring training jackets and dog harnesses and newborn puppy and litter sponsorships. The organization also has puppy raiser groups throughout Southern California and currently needs additional puppy raiser families to join the program. Families who volunteer to raise the puppies with GDA get to watch them “graduate” in a ceremony with their newly matched visually impaired partners. The most recent graduation took place in September in Sylmar, where owners from across the U.S. were paired with a black or yellow Labrador retriever or a Labrador-golden retriever cross.
“This is the end goal for every puppy raiser who joins our program – to know the puppy they raised is now a guide dog who is helping to keep his partner safe,” says Stephanie Colman, GDA’s puppy program coordinator.
“Before I had a guide dog, I was always listening for the sounds of danger,” said Lorri Bernson, a Guide Dogs of America graduate currently partnered with Captain, a yellow Labrador retriever. “With my guide dog, I can relax and not have to worry about finding every step or every obstacle. I know it’s his job to keep us safe when we’re going from Point A to Point B, and I can enjoy listening to the beautiful sounds in life: the birds, children laughing …”
For more information, visit guidedogsofamerica.org.