Barbara Byle is the Regional Coordinator for the non-profit organization Guiding Eyes for the Blind which helps local families participate in the process of raising puppies that become guide dogs for disabled individuals across the United States. With the help of several local volunteers, Ms. Byle and her team facilitate training sessions that help puppy raisers learn how to train puppies for the long road ahead. These puppies must learn socialization, commands and loyalty for their owners before they have a chance to become a companion for the visually impaired.
Ms. Byle starting working with Guiding Eyes for the Blind as a puppy trainer herself in Annapolis, Maryland and became the Regional Coordinator of that area after raising several puppies herself. Her passion for the work and her love of dogs led her to accept the invitation from Guiding Eyes for the Blind to create a new region for the organization after she moved to Delaware.
The families are trained at the Milford Moose Lodge and are provided with the basic training needed for any puppy that will advance to the level of guide dog, giving the disabled individual a sense of independence, mobility and companionship.
“The most rewarding part of this job is watching the puppy raisers succeed,” commented Ms. Byle. “They work really hard with the puppies and each puppy is different, giving you a different challenge.”
Guiding Eyes for the Blind breeds puppies for the purpose of training them as guide dogs and matches each family with a dog that best suits their environment and needs. Puppies who demonstrate patience and are considered to have lower energy levels are placed with elderly couples, families with children or first-time participants of the program. The raisers will spend 16-20 months preparing the puppies for a higher level of training which is conducted by expert dog trainers in New York.
Fifty percent of the puppies will go on to see graduation and will perform the duties of a guide dog. Some of the dogs will also be given a chance to work with the Connecticut State Police or for the United States federal government through the Transportation Security Administration or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
The organization provides the puppy raisers with supplies such as a welcome kit, kennels and monthly medications. One raiser from Milford, Addison Morey, is currently training her second guide dog through the Guiding Eyes for the Blind program. Her twelve-week old puppy Calista is learning the ropes of how to become a professional service dog.
“It has been a wonderful experience working with this program,” commented Addison. “Seeing your dog grow and learn is exciting and thinking that they will grow up to be someone else’s eyes is so rewarding.”
The Guiding Eyes for the Blind program in the Milford area will start a new series for puppy raisers beginning in March. Individuals from the community are encouraged to fill out an application now for the upcoming program. For additional information on the program and the application process contact Barbara Byle at 302-422-3522 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Online applications can be found at www.volunteer.guidingeyes.org.