Many people my age leave the house in the early morning and head out for a full day of high school classes. For some students, traveling to school is a time to wake up fully; to reflect on tests to be taken, and assignments due. Bleary-eyed “commuter kids” traveling by themselves may have the luxury of balancing to-go mugs of hot coffee or cocoa in their laps – something to get them through the ferry to the bus, from the bus to our school. My school days have been a little bit different. My hands are too full for drinks and breakfast bars on the ferry boat, because accompanying me on my forty minute commute everyday is a guide dog puppy. These dogs are more than just puppies in training, they are also my friends. At my side all the time,these puppies get to help me educate the public about Guide Dogs for the Blind, and what it means to be a Puppy Raiser.
My Puppy Raising club, “Eyes of the Future”, is one of the few high school-based Guide Dogs for the Blind clubs in Washington State. I have had the honor to be president of this club for the past two years. The majority of our raisers and puppy sitters are fourteen to eighteen years old. On a normal day, we will have around seven puppies at school for students in the Guide Dog program to take to classes. The guide dog puppies bring fun and love to the students' learning. They also provide a calming presence around the campus. The ability of our extraordinary dogs to calm and heal others became very apparent in my sophomore year.
In October 2012, we were shocked and grief-stricken when a freshman boy from our school killed himself. It happened on a Thursday -- word spread very fast around my school during morning break. Our entire student body was devastated. Students were given the option to go and sit in the library; there were adults available to talk with. Several of the freshman left school early to go home and be with friends and family. The absence of some students and the shock and grief of others contributed to an unnatural silence in the halls. Then, more and more students began exiting their classrooms to go sit with their thoughts and feelings in the library. I left my English classroom to join other students there. At my side was my very first Guide Dog puppy, Corbett. Corbett entered the solemn, tear-filled library with his usual calm, sweet demeanor and happy face. We sat down with our friends, Corbett resting his head on another student's leg. One by one, students gathered around Corbett. He gave everyone a sense of love, serenity, and life. This was, for me, an intense example of how sharing Guide Dog puppies with my school, and throughout our community, brings comfort, happiness and joy to so many people.
As I raise these special puppies, I am proud to be dedicating my time and my love to care for them, as they prepare to give freedom and independence to their forever-partners. I raise these puppies for the community, for the fulfillment they give to everyone, and for the forever companions these puppies will love and serve in whatever path of service is chosen for them. I continue to be a puppy raiser, so that I can give back to the community that has nurtured me and my vision, and to give someone the gift of sight. I am excited to continue my work with Guide Dogs as I attend Washington State University and join their puppy raising club, WSU Guiding Paws. Being an intern at GDB last summer helped me to realize that in the future I would love to work at Guide Dogs for the Blind and continue helping the organization that has been such an important part of my high school years.