Sunny updates us on what he's learned in his guide dog training

He's come a long way since he was introduced as a young pup in Studio 1A!

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/ Source: TODAY
By Sunny

Hi, fur-riends!

Wednesday marks International Guide Dog Day! This is a day to celebrate the importance of guide dogs and how they help people who are blind or visually impaired reach their personal goals of independence. It's also a way to honor all the paw-some people who dedicate their time, funds and love to creating guide dog partnerships!

As you know, I've spent my whole life working toward becoming a guide dog for someone in need. I dream of providing that special someone with a new leash on life!

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In order to become a guide dog, you have to master many skills, including:

  • Learning your left from your right.
  • Learning to guide forward and to stop when asked.
  • Navigating around stationary obstacles like street signs and moving obstacles like people. (NYC has a lot of people!)
  • Stopping for all curbs into and out of the street. (This helps my handler know when we are reaching an intersection and when we have completed a street crossing.)
  • Crossing the street in a safe, straight line.
  • Stopping for all changes in elevation (like stairs or other tripping hazards).
  • Mastering what they call "intelligent disobedience." This fancy term means I need to have the confidence to refuse a cue from my handler if necessary for safety reasons (like crossing the street when a car is coming).

My trainer says I'm a very bright boy and that I'm doing great with all of these challenges. What do you expect?! Of course SUNNY is bright!

It has been quite a personal trans-fur-mation growing up from a young, silly pup in Studio 1A to the fun-loving gentleman I aim to be now. My TODAY family has supported my mission every step of the way and cheered me on as I reach all the milestones in my Guide Dog Foundation education.

Most recently, I passed the first phase of final blindfold testing. This is where my trainer wears a blindfold and I guide her through all the elements of a building. The Metropolitan Museum of Art hosted us for this test. It was very paw-sh!

I also took some time at the Met to enjoy the art, too!Olivia Poff

I had to find and ride the escalator and elevator, locate and guide my trainer up and down stairs, find my trainer an open seat to sit down and take a break, make turns to the left or right when asked, and carefully navigate around all the beautiful artwork. I'm happy to share that I passed this test with flying colors, and I'm one step closer to achieving my goal!

I also was honored with a really fun side-hustle. I was named NBC Sports' Stanley "Pup" correspondent for the NHL playoffs. I am getting to practice my skills in high-distraction environments like hockey arenas, raise awareness about guide dogs, and meet some very talented and hardworking players for ins-paw-ration.

My correspondent role lets me get up close to the players!Photo by Mark Blinch

If you would like to learn more about me and my training, or how you can help other pups like me, check out Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind (guidedog.org). Together, we can make sure the future is bright!

Wags and kisses,

Sunny