Toys & Training

Seeing eye canine program seeks Maine volunteers to lift puppies


Guiding Eyes pup Sally, raised by Maine Regional Coordinator Wendy Flynn. Photograph contributed by Wendy Flynn

Guiding Eyes for the Blind seeks volunteers from Tub, Brunswick and Freeport to show puppies primary abilities to arrange them for information canine coaching and for his or her future companions.

Guiding Eyes is a New York-based nonprofit that gives seeing eye canine at no cost for many who are blind or experiencing imaginative and prescient loss.

With 150 staff and over 1,700 volunteers, Guiding Eyes has skilled over 10,000 canine since 1954 at their 10-acre coaching facility situated in Yorktown, New York.

Maine Regional Coordinator Wendy Flynn mentioned there are 20 pet raisers in Maine and a few have been volunteering for over 30 years.

For eight years, Flynn has raised a wide range of pups. Her first pup, Dylan, turned an autistic therapeutic canine. Her second pup, Orchid, turned a bomb-sniffing canine. Her third pup, Zed, turned a information canine and quantity 4, Sally, turned a breeding canine for future information canine.

Wendy Flynn coaching her pet, Zed. Photograph contributed by Wendy Flynn.

Voluteers should attend 4 digital lessons and have their dwelling visited by Guiding Eyes to find out security and coaching viability.

“We would like all walks of life as a result of people who find themselves sight-impaired come from all walks of life,” mentioned Flynn.

After a volunteer is accepted, they attend eight weeks of lessons to show the essential fundamentals utilizing optimistic reinforcement.

“A giant a part of what we train is connection,” Flynn mentioned. “You need the canine to make connections with the folks. You begin very small with instructions like sit, keep, come and learn how to stroll on a leash with out pulling. Optimistic reinforcement is the one approach we strategy the puppies.”

After 12-16 months, puppy-raisers will ship their canine “In-For-Coaching” to check if the pet is prepared for the coaching middle in New York. The preliminary check consists of bringing the canine into a big room stuffed with distractions, corresponding to toys, loud noises and completely different terrain, to see if they will resist.

If pups go their first coaching check, they are going to be matched with an expert coach in New York, for six months, earlier than being matched with a seeing impaired companion.

Flynn mentioned canine who don’t go the primary check could “change careers” and work for the state police, work as remedy canine or be adopted. Pet raisers do get the choice to undertake first, if their pup didn’t make the reduce.

Having saved one of many pups she raised, Flynn mentioned it’s onerous to say goodbye to those who proceed on in this system, however is aware of it’s for a larger good.

“Sure it’s onerous to provide them up, however it’s like sending your kids out into the world. You get this wonderful feeling, that you just get to do one thing optimistic,” she mentioned.

Nina Scribner, now 82, started elevating canine for Guiding Eyes in 1985 along with her first pup, Sunshine. Scribner has raised over 23 canine for this system.

“It’s a really exhilarating course of,” mentioned Scribner.

Nina Scribner with Europe and her puppies. Photograph contributed by Wendy Flynn.

The work supplies new alternatives for the seeing impaired.

Born blind, literary professor and Kennebunk resident Marc Silverstein mentioned Guiding Eyes has been an unimaginable group to work with.

Silverstein was paired together with his information canine Rooney this previous Could, and mentioned they’ve change into two halves of an entire. Earlier than Rooney, Silverstein had grown accustomed to utilizing a cane.

“Canes can nonetheless miss issues,” mentioned Silverstein. “It’s totally completely different with a information canine. Generally you’ll be able to even really feel them determining if there are a whole lot of obstructions within the highway. It’s simply great.”

He praised Guiding Eyes for the time and care they put into this system. He mentioned the group was with him each step of the best way, offering connections with those who raised Rooney, and a direct cellphone quantity to talk with a coach or vet at any time.

He encourages anybody in want of a information canine to make the leap.

“The rewards are numerous,” mentioned Silverstein. “In case you are fascinated with it in any respect, it’s most likely an indication and also you received’t remorse it.”

His spouse Helen mentioned she has seen the outstanding change that Rooney has made in her husband’s life.

“Simply to see how completely happy Marc is. I feel maybe he felt extra alone in his blindness than I noticed and he clearly has a companion now. I simply need pet raisers to know that they actually do change lives,” she mentioned.

Off for summer season trip and writing his second novel, Marc Silverstein mentioned Rooney arrived on the proper time once they may bond and study from one another.

“He really actually perks up after we put the harness on him,” Marc Silverstein mentioned. “Whereas it’s work, he enjoys it. When he’s by with work he’ll take some play time or take a nap.”

Marc Silverstein and his information canine Rooney. Photograph contributed by Helen Silverstein.

For extra data e-mail  [email protected] or go to


Pup Kahlua raised by Elora Hixon. Photograph contributed by Wendy Flynn.

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