Thursday, September 26, 2019

Puppies with A Purpose: Guide Dogs for the Blind

By Amy Yasukawa
I have always had a love and passion for dogs and community service, and knew that one day I would love to merge the two together. I was very excited when I discovered the organization, Guide Dogs for the Blind.

When I was in preschool, only big enough to sing the alphabet, my teacher was diagnosed with a rare disorder, causing her to become blind. It was devastating, but she wanted to remain independent, so she eventually received a dog from Guide Dogs for the Blind, in San Rafael, CA. Attending her graduation and seeing her guide dog made me realize how rewarding it would be if I could raise a guide dog for a blind person.

When I was a freshman in high school, I eagerly contacted a local puppy raising club and attended its bi-monthly meetings. Never owning a dog, I was extremely excited and could not wipe away the gigantic smile from my face with the thought of receiving a dog to train.

For about a year and a half, it would be up to us to help a puppy learn the necessary basic skills to then go back to Guide Dogs for the Blind for formal training. There, the dog would have further schooling and would be paired with a blind companion who will put his or her trust with a new guide.

The time finally came when I would receive my first puppy. Riding through the streets of San Francisco and across the Golden Gate Bridge, my mom and I finally reached our destination. I saw a big, bold, shiny sign that read, “Guide Dogs for the Blind National Headquarters.”  It was an image that will forever be in my mind. There, I was presented with a playful eight-week-old Labrador retriever puppy. It was love at first sight for both my puppy and me as we both eager for the journey ahead!

Raising a guide dog is a lot of work, but also full of joy. Even with all of the hardships, I found myself proud of what my puppy and I had achieved. We went on many exciting adventures like out to restaurants, stores, movies, beaches, and rides on buses, trains and planes. That way, the puppy is exposed to a multitude of sights, sounds, and smells.

When it’s time to part, although a tearful goodbye, there will always be many fond memories I will cherish, watching our adorable eight-week old fluffy puppy to a mature and confident dog who will improve the quality of someone’s life. Knowing the wonderful service the dog will provide is the most rewarding and fulfilling feeling a person can experience. The sense of pure confidence, appreciation, and peace when a blind companion grasps the harness of the guide dog is something I will never forget.

Editor's Note: Amy was SVPP's summer intern who amazingly and at a young age — discovered a passion for animals and the value of fostering a service pet who would support and love someone in need. Amy has returned to class this month at Seattle University in Washington and plans to graduate next year.