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All in the Family

Tuesday December 20, 2022

Tawna Crispin (center) with her mother, her husband and four of their children, and three guide dog puppies, from 2008.

Pictured above from 2008: Puppy Raising Field Manager Tawna Crispin, center, with her mother, her husband and four of their children, and three guide dog puppies.

Allow us to introduce you to GDB's newest Puppy Raising Field Manager, Tawna Crispin. For Tawna, all roads have led to GDB from the time she was a teenager, and we are so excited to welcome her to our staff.

When Tawna was 17 years old, she and her mom, Andrea Crispin, both got involved with GDB as volunteer puppy raisers. "I had been involved in the 4-H dog training program and had progressed through all the 4-H dog training levels," Tawna said. "But I was interested in learning and doing more." GDB provided that opportunity. "Both my mom and I applied to be puppy raisers, and I’ve been doing it ever since." She and her mom co-raised four GDB puppies together, but after that they were off and running, both independently raising puppies pretty much from then on (although Tawna's mom has recently retired from puppy raising). For Tawna however, that amounts to raising 34 puppies through the years! 

Puppy raising is a passion that has now spanned three generations. Tawna has five children, each of whom has grown up with a leash in their hands almost from the time they could walk. Tawna's teenage daughter, Morgan Cradduck, has officially taken the puppy raising reigns in their household (with the support of her dad and brothers), and is currently raising a pup named Jazzy.

"Being around people and family is a big part of a puppy's training," Tawna said. "It’s super important as it helps to socialize the dogs to the noises and activities of so many people of different ages and lifestyles. All of my family members can handle the dogs, and have been trained on how to interact with them. They know all the rules and follow them. Puppy raising - it is a way of life for us!"

Morgan agrees. "I will for sure be a puppy raiser as an adult," she said. "I love it. I really want to carry on the tradition. It is an honor to raise these dogs."

So the multigenerational involvement with GDB in Tawna's family is firmly entrenched. But it turns out that there's even one more family layer of GDB connection to Tawna's story. Tawna's grandmother, Audrey Hern, was a GDB client.

"My grandmother became legally blind in her early 70s," Tawna said. "As her vision degenerated, she became less and less independent. She didn’t think she would qualify for a guide dog, but we all saw the change in her ability to get around and be her independent self. So, I helped her get mobility training and referred her to Guide Dogs for the Blind, where she did indeed qualify for GDB’s services. She had two guide dogs before passing. Had I not known about GDB, I wouldn’t have been able to help my grandmother. The independence and complete change in her after getting a guide dog was amazing. She became herself again - a confident, strong, independent senior citizen. She used to tell me I expected too much of the puppies I was raising. But when she graduated from GDB, she thanked me for training the dogs so well because she realized the importance of the work and the dedication that the puppy raisers pour into the pups."

She continues: "Over the years, in my own family as well as in the larger GDB community, I have witnessed the positive impacts that Guide Dogs for the Blind makes on the lives of its volunteers and clients. As it did for my grandmother, GDB does unparalleled work supporting and advocating for individuals with visual impairments. While doing so, GDB organically builds an interwoven community of caring people ready, willing, and able to help each other at any given moment. When you are a part of the GDB community, you know it, you feel it, and you are better because of it."

So now, the next chapter of Tawna's GDB story is being written. As a Puppy Raising Field Manager based out of Everett, Wash., Tawna will oversee a territory of volunteers, providing support and expertise to the next generations of puppy raisers.

"I have long thought about working for GDB, but the timing was never right, and I was always happy fulfilling my passion through my volunteerism with GDB. However, when the Puppy Raising Field Manager position came open, I jumped at the opportunity to turn my passion into a career with a mission-driven purpose," Tawna said. "This is a dream job for anyone who believes in investing in people, loves puppies, and has the desire to make a difference in the lives of volunteers, as well as individuals with visual impairments. I love and appreciate puppy raisers and I adore puppies (who doesn’t?)! My experiences as a volunteer puppy raiser and leader as well as the family member of a client have allowed me to view GDB from different sides and connect with volunteers and clients on multiple levels. I know the joys and realities of puppy raisers, leaders, and families. With all that in mind, it is my goal to make a meaningful impact by providing a proactive support system for puppy raisers. I have the best job in the world!"

As Tawna delves into this new role, she says she is in awe at the amount of cohesive teamwork it takes by skilled and dedicated staff members and volunteers to fulfill GDB’s mission.

"I am excited to now be taking on a larger role in the GDB community as a staff member in this spectacular team. Each person and every pup is a part of a larger movement supporting a vision of full and independent lives for those with visual impairments," she said. "I’m looking forward to being out in the field and meeting more wonderful people and helping them raise spectacular guide dogs. GDB volunteers are the most amazing people with exceedingly generous hearts. Being able to support our volunteers while they give so much of themselves is truly an honor. My family is thrilled but not at all surprised that this is where my GDB journey has taken me. They all feel that I was destined for this role, it was just a matter of when it would happen. I’d like to think that my grandmother is smiling down on me, proud of the work I am doing with puppies, volunteers, and in support of individuals with visual impairments."