Vermonter Patty Hurban is a volunteer puppy raiser for Guiding Eyes for the Blind. She just celebrated her puppy's graduation as a full-fledged guide dog.
Hurban raised Dawson, a Black Labrador Retriever. The dog became a member of Patty's family at 8 weeks of age and was fully trained to be part of a Guiding Eyes team. The dog was placed recently in its permanent home with Sylvia Er-Wood.
As the primary raiser of Dawson, Hurban said, "This entire experience has been very fulfilling and positive. Guiding Eyes is an organization that is professional and caring; it was a pleasure to be a puppy raiser. Dawson is the third puppy I have raised for Guiding Eyes".
The Guiding Eyes Puppy Raising Program is comprised of more than 400 puppy raisers from Maine to North Carolina.
Lee Nordin, director of Guiding Eyes' Canine Development, said, "caring, dedicated people like Patty Hurban are the heart and soul of the Guiding Eyes program. Puppy raisers nurture the young pups and familiarize them with everyday situations."
After approximately a year and a half, Hurban returned the Swanton-raised dog to Guiding Eyes for evaluation. Dawson passed the tests to begin formal training with a Guiding Eyes guide-dog instructor. After approximately six months of rigorous training, Dawson was fully prepared to assist his new blind partner, Sylvia Er-Wood, in traveling safely and more confidently.
Living in Hurban's Vermont home, Dawson was provided with many different opportunities for socialization, including visits to shopping malls, train stations and restaurants.
It takes a great deal of commitment to raise a Guiding Eyes puppy.
"There is no way for me to describe the pride I feel knowing that Dawson is now a working guide dog," Hurban said. "The entire experience is an indescribable and unbelievable one."
It costs approximately $45,000 to breed, raise and train a Guiding Eyes dog, but there is no cost to the graduate. Funded solely by contributions from individuals, corporations, foundations and organizations, Guiding Eyes is able to cover all costs.
For more information on raising a Guiding Eyes puppy, contact Guiding Eyes for the Blind at 1(866) GEB-LABS or visit the website at www.volunteer.guidingeyes.org.