I believe that it does not necessarily take one person to positively affect the life of another. Sometimes, all you need is one loving dog.
I have volunteered as a Puppy Raiser for Guide Dogs for the Blind for nearly five years now. In this time, my family and I have been a foster family for three dogs that were beginning their training. Puppy Raisers usually have the dogs in their homes until they are about a year old. Then, the dogs return to the foundation in order to learn formal guide-work. Basically, all we do is love them, care for them, teach the dogs basic commands like “sit” and “let’s go”, and we get them used to being in public. This entails taking the dog shopping, to the movies, out to dinner, and in my case, to high school.
Seeing-eye dogs have an obvious impact on their visually impaired partners, but I believe that many people forget the impact they have on all of the people they come in contact with. On the days when I do not bring my puppy-in-training to school, I am constantly bombarded with questions; everybody wants to know where the dog is and how soon will she come back. In stores, I am stopped by parents who want to talk about how their child has a service dog like mine at their school. Often, I am told, they hear more about dog than anything else about their child’s day.
People want to connect with one another. They want to talk about the puppies, and they want to share about their own pets. Bringing my puppy-in-training along with me gives people who never would have spoken to me a chance to find common ground, establishing new relationships. Seeing the dogs makes their day a little different; sometimes it may make it a little better.
The first dog that my family and I raised was when my sister and I were both in high school, causing us to take turns bringing the dog to class. On one particular day, I had the dog, and my sister went along to all of her classes. Later, she told me that in one class, one of the students was upset that she did not bring the dog that day. He told her that he had only come today because he had wanted to see the dog. Apparently, he was having trouble with school and needed something other than lectures and homework to motivate him to come. For him, our puppy was just that motivator.
Animals do not tell you what to do; all they ask for is a return in the unconditional love that they have already bestowed on you. The dogs that I have met, at least, all seem to understand when a person is happy, or when they are upset. Surprisingly often, they can handle emotional issues better than most people can. After all, a wet puppy kiss can be the best remedy for a tough day.
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