Pets & Animals

Want to become a puppy raiser for a guide dog? Wrangler's trainer Saxon explains how

Saxon Eastman, is a puppy raiser for Guiding Eyes For the Blind and TODAY's very own puppy with a purpose, Wrangler. For International Guide Dog Day, Saxon's answering one of our viewers' top questions: How do I become a puppy raiser?

Samantha Okazaki / TODAY
TODAY Show: At Home With Wrangler, TODAY's Puppy with a Purpose. -- February 9, 2015.

Raising a puppy is an exciting commitment to a furry friend and an incredibly rewarding journey. While there are ups and downs along the way, there is nothing more meaningful than watching that little pup growing into a guide dog and changing someone’s life. Puppy raisers are an integral and invaluable part of the process of creating exceptional guide dogs.

The first step means asking yourself some important questions:

  • Will I have enough time to devote to this puppy’s care and training?
  • Am I able to meet a young Labrador or German shepherd’s physical exercise requirements?
  • Will I be able to handle giving the dog back to Guiding Eyes at the end of the process?

If the answers to these questions are yes, then the next step is to find an organization in your region that takes volunteers.

Samantha Okazaki / TODAY
TODAY Show: Wrangler in Studio 1A -- March 4, 2015.

The organization will assess your lifestyle, home environment and interest in raising a puppy in order to help you decide if puppy raising is right for you.

Once the application has been reviewed, you and other potential puppy raisers will attend a series of orientation classes to learn about the lessons you’ll teach your pups over the 14 to 16 months you’ll have them.

When orientation classes are complete, you'll “borrow” a puppy from another raiser in the region to help you determine if you are ready to make the commitment to a puppy of your own. This “puppy sit” can last a week or more, and is meant to help you figure out how to fit a puppy into your life.

If you’re ready to move forward, the organization will begin the process of matching you with your own puppy.

Samantha Okazaki / TODAY
TODAY Show: Wrangler in Studio 1A -- April 13, 2015

Once that 8-week-old puppy is in your arms, the puppy raising journey truly begins! Along the way you will feel everything from love and happiness (at watching your puppy grow and learn) to frustration (when he or she stumbles across problems). And you'll also feel the bittersweet emotions that come when it's time to say goodbye and send the puppy off to a higher purpose.

But when you sit at graduation, watching your puppy at the front of the room with his or her harness and handler, every moment you shared will be well worth the time, commitment and effort. The endless puppy love is just a great bonus.

If puppy raising isn’t for you, there are a multitude of other ways to get involved with Guiding Eyes. To learn more about our many volunteer opportunities, or to donate, please visit GuidingEyes.org.

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