Guiding Eyes Prepares Service Dogs

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Guiding Eyes For The Blind Regional Coordinator Barbar Byle and Kathy Milone with Kruger.
Guiding Eyes For The Blind Regional Coordinator Barbar Byle and Kathy Milone with Kruger.

On Saturday, September 28 the Milford Moose Lodge hosted a fundraiser 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 volunteers from the Moose Lodge, Guiding Eyes For The Blind Regional Coordinator Barbar Byle educated the community about the organization’s services while raising funds that will provide puppy raisers with supplies such as a welcome kits, kennels and monthly medications.

“We are so grateful to the Moose lodge for hosting this fundraiser today and for the use of the Lodge for our training session,” commented Byle. Over the past two years Guiding Eyes For The Blind has held their training courses for puppy raisers at the Milford Lodge the first and third Tuesdays of the month.

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. 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.

“Watching that puppy grow, respond and having that connection is very satisfying” commented Ms. Byle when asked what it means to be a puppy raiser. “Seeing your accomplishments and seeing them matched with their new partner is a very emotional thing to experience.”

Four years ago, Kathy Milone of Millsboro was introduced to her new partner Kruger, a back labrador service dog that aids her with daily activities. Kathy is a veteran of the Guiding Eyes For The Blind program and has had 10 dogs throughout the years helping her sustain a successful career in the United States Justice Department. Her guide dogs allowed her to commute every day from suburban Maryland to Washington D.C. taking two buses each way.

“Guiding Eyes For The Blind gave me independence. I used to use a cane in the dark ages but no one came up to me and complimented my cane,” laughed Kathy. “Kruger is a great dog, he is smart and strong and is always an icebreaker for conversation.” One of Kathy and Kruger’s favorite activities is shopping at the Outlets together in Rehoboth Beach.

Guiding Eyes for the Blind 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 to 20 months preparing the puppies for a higher level of training which is conducted by expert dog trainers in New York.

According to Ms. Byle, Sixty-five 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 (TSA) or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).

The Guiding Eyes for the Blind program in the Milford area will start a new series for puppy raisers beginning in October. 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, individuals can contact Barbara Byle at 302-422-3522 or babyle2@comcast.net. Online applications can be found at www.volunteer.guidingeyes.org.