Guiding Eyes pups keep retired WPD officer busy
Guiding Eyes for the Blind is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to raise puppies with a purpose. That purpose is to help people with vision impairments lead an active life not limited by their lack of vision.
When I retired from the Westlake Police Department in 2014, many people asked what I would do next. I had no idea and started out just enjoying my time off. While I was still working, my wife and I were always involved with rescue groups. We have had 32 foster dogs, mostly Golden Retrievers rescued by Golden Retrievers in Need (GRIN). Upon my retirement from the police department we began looking into other ways to help, not only the animals but people as well. We had looked into the Guiding Eyes organization previously but with both of us working it didn’t seem like the right time. Once I retired time was not a problem.
The process of raising a Guiding Eyes puppy begins with two 3-hour pre-placement classes. These classes prepare you for raising the puppy and orient you to the Guiding Eyes philosophy. Then the fun begins; we received our first pup in September 2014, a 10-week-old yellow lab named Raleigh. Raleigh was a very energetic pup but settled into our home and soon became my constant companion. As a service dog in training, Raleigh could go anywhere with me. He was quick to learn and eager to please.
Puppy raisers generally have a dog until they are 16-18 months old at which point they go back to the training center for testing and further training. The hardest part in all of this is when it comes time to return your pup for training. We liken it to dropping your child off at college, they go to acquire the next level of education needed for them to succeed in the world. The big difference is your pup won’t call for extra money!
Guiding Eyes carefully breeds the dogs to maintain good bloodlines and lessen the chances of health issues. There are many factors that go into a dog's training to become a service dog and Guiding Eyes is diligent about placing the right dog with the right person. The dogs are free to the recipient even though each dog is valued at about $50,000 with all of the training given.
As part of the training to receive a dog, the person must be able to travel to the training center in New York and stay for about three weeks. During this process they are first acclimated to the area and then to their potential guide dog. The team trains every day to get the dog and person working together as well as possible. The dog must be able to tune out distractions and focus on the task at hand, leading their person and keeping them safe.
It is very rewarding to know that by raising these pups my wife and I are helping others lead a more independent life. Raleigh was chosen to be a stud and has fathered two litters at this point. (Raleigh's pups may be in our future.) Since Raleigh’s departure from our home we have started again with a female black lab named Velita. She is now 6 months old and learning very quickly.
Ptlm. Ken Delfing, Westlake Police Dept. D.A.R.E./School Resource Officer/Retired