YORKTOWN HEIGHTS, N.Y. – Taking care of adorable dogs who have even more adorable puppies might not seem like meaningful volunteer work – but it is.
Guiding Eyes for the Blind in Yorktown Heights, a globally recognized guide dog school, is now accepting applications for new foster volunteers in Westchester County and the surrounding region for its brood/stud program.
Foster volunteers in Guiding Eyes’ brood/stud program provide a permanent home for one of the organization’s breed dogs and are entrusted with their health, safety, and well being. All vet care is covered. Fosters receive training in dog handling, care and obedience. In addition to a loving home environment, foster volunteers also commit to walking their dog at least 3 miles per day.
“Without the extraordinary dedication of our breeding colony fosters, we would simply be unable to provide guide dogs to the blind and visually impaired,” said Michelle Brier, Guiding Eyes’ director of marketing and communications.
For Somers residents Dale and Gail Bergman, becoming foster volunteers for Guiding Eyes one year ago has been a rewarding experience for not only themselves but also the dog – a 2-year old black lab named Nina – and all of those that will benefit from the service of Nina’s offspring.
She has had two litters thus far while under the Bergman’s care.
“It’s just one of those organizations that there’s no downside to,” Dale said. “The people there are so positive. If you love dogs, it’s that much more of an added thrill to get involved. Following the puppies and seeing where they go, and who they help, is very rewarding.”
There’s also the added bonus adding a new companion to your family in the process, he added.
“Nina is such phenomenal dog,” he said. “She listens to every command and is a joy to be around.
Most breeding colony dogs are between the ages of 16- to 20-months-old when placed in a foster home. They are housebroken and have had basic obedience training, but have not been trained as guide dogs. When the time comes for a brood or stud to retire, fosters have the first opportunity to adopt them for good.
Dana and John Barti, of Putnam Valley, also have enjoyed their experience as foster volunteers. They knew that fostering Cosmo would be a great way to teach their three children about the importance of service and giving back. The family originally became interested in Guiding Eyes through its heeling autism program for their son, Adam, who is on the spectrum.
"Cosmo is a best friend for Adam," Dana said. "Cosmo grounds him and, although not trained as a heeling autism dog, often senses his needs."
“Being a foster family for Guiding Eyes is an amazing experience. You will be bringing home a dog with great house manners that provides unconditional love. On top of that, seeing one of your grand-puppies graduate and be paired with a person or a child who needs them is a feeling I can't describe,” she added.
Guiding Eyes for the Blind is at 611 Granite Springs Road, Yorktown Heights. To learn more about the brood/stud program, call 1-866-GEB-LABS. Additional information is available online at www.guidingeyes.org/volunteer/brood-stud-program/ .
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