Puppies trained to guide the blind

From VOA Learning English, here is the Health and Lifestyle Report.

For many people who are blind and have vision difficulties, life can be made easier with a guide dog. But making a good guide dog takes a lot of work. And for many, the long road begins when the dog is a puppy.

Take for example the five 8-week-old puppies that arrived at Tipton Airport in Fort Meade, Maryland in early February. At that time, they were affectionate and playful animals, like all puppies. Now, however, Labrador Retriever and German Shepherd puppies are on their way to becoming useful members of society.

Suzette Galyean, volunteer puppy raiser, works with Thunder, a 5-month-old German Shepherd puppy, during a Guiding Eyes for the Blind Big Puppy class at St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church in Bowie, Maryland, on Monday, Feb. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

If they prove it, they could become guide dogs. They will help improve the lives of people with sight and sight loss deficiency.

Future loyal friends are part of a training program from an organization called Guiding Eyes for the Blind. The pups flew from the organization’s headquarters in Yorktown Heights, New York, to Maryland aboard a “Pilots To The Rescue” flight.

Pilots to the Rescue is a nonprofit organization that transports “…animals as well as people at risk,” it says on its website.

The puppies were born in Yorktown Heights. And they spent the first two months of their lives with their mothers and brothers and sisters. The young dogs were raised for health and temperament. (Here, “temperament” means how they react to their environment.)

However, breeding alone will not be enough to turn these puppies into guide dogs. They will need expert training in dog training.

They will also need to be fed by volunteers called Puppy Raisers. The goal of this breeding by Puppy Raisers and their families is to develop energetic, playful puppies into well-behaved and well-socialized dogs.

These are the qualities needed for a good guide dog: well-behaved, well-trained, well-behaved, and well-socialized.

Queenie, an eight-week-old Labrador puppy, yawns before the start of her Basic Guiding Eyes for the Blind class with volunteer puppy trainer Debbie Dugan at St. Matthew's United Methodist Church in Bowie, Maryland, Feb. 14 2022. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Queenie, an eight-week-old Labrador puppy, yawns before the start of her Basic Guiding Eyes for the Blind class with volunteer puppy trainer Debbie Dugan at St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church in Bowie, Maryland, Feb. 14 2022. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The process will take approximately 14-16 months of weekly lessons and testing. The training begins with the basics: name recognition, behavior and commands such as “sit” and “lie down”. Trainers then move on to more complex commands. After that, the puppies are given to puppy breeders. Breeders and their families will show puppies the world and how to behave in it.

Cindy Tait is the Guiding Eyes for the Blind’s Puppy program manager. She told The Associated Press that other experts will keep a close eye on the training and help resolve any issues breeders may have along the way.

Once a solid, loving foundation is in place, puppies should leave their breeders and return to the Guiding Eyes training facility for formal guide dog training. Formal training is where dogs to prove whether it will become a guide dog for the blind, another type of service dog, or someone’s pet.

That means there’s almost always a tearful goodbye.

Delani has completed this stage of the Guiding Eyes for the Blind program and must leave Schaefer his

Delani has completed this stage of the Guiding Eyes for the Blind program and is to leave Schaefer his “Puppy Raiser” and return to Guiding Eyes headquarters for formal training to become a guide dog. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Denali is one of the four biggest puppies. He was placed on a flight back to Guiding Eyes the day the new puppies arrived. Tait had tears in his eyes as he watched puppy breeder Carolyn Schaefer say goodbye to the yellow Labrador and lead him to the plane.

“That’s the hardest part,” Tait said. But she said a guide dog has the power to help people. And that softens the blow, an expression that means “makes a difficult thing easier”.

Although it can be very difficult to leave puppies behind, puppy breeders come back time and time again. Tait herself raised many. She lists them all: Roxanne, Katrina, Velour, Gus, Mystic, Oregon, Kelby, Tad, Eagle, Winnie, and now Kenji, her 11th future guide dog puppy.

And that’s the health and lifestyle report. I am Anna Matteo.

Carolyn Kaster reported this story for The Associated Press of Fort Meade, Maryland. Anna Matteo adapted it for VOA Learning English.

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words in this story

vision – nm the act or power of seeing

deficiency – nm decrease or loss of function or ability

brother and sister – nm one of two or more persons having a common parent

raise – v. to produce or increase (animals or plants) by sexual reproduction

temperament – nm a person’s attitude that affects what they say or do

to feed – v. to promote the development of

basic – adj. of, pertaining to, or forming the basis or essence

foundation – nm the act of starting or creating

to prove – v. to prove or make clear by reasoning or proof