9-Year-Old Girl Trains Puppy to Become Seeing Eye Dog
Childhood is a special time when we’ve got our necessities covered and all we need to worry about is playing and learning as much as possible.
Everything’s new and exciting during these wonderful years, and we’re eager to learn all we can about the world around us. This is the period in which the foundations of our character are laid.
That’s why some outstanding children choose to spend this time learning invaluable skills that not only help them grow, but help others, too. Children like Mackenzie, the incredible child training a puppy to become a Seeing Eye dog.
Just like childhood, puppyhood is when dogs are in their sweet spot to be trained and socialized. It’s during this time they learn to receive affection and be around human beings. So many families volunteer to take care of young service dogs in training.
The Story of Mackenzie
Mackenzie is the type of child who’s curious, sensible, and astute. At 9 years old she became a Seeing Eye puppy trainer.
“Dogs and helping people are kind like my two favorite things,” says Mackenzie as she’s interviewed for NBCPhiladephia.com.
It was summertime and she was looking for a club that would fit her interests. She found the Montgomery County Seeing Eye Puppy 4H Club. Here she discovered a club where she could merge her two passions: Helping dogs and people.
She read about it and found out it’s a big responsibility. So, she went to the club meetings where she learned all about training future Seeing Eye puppies.
“We have to praise her for every time she gets it right,” Mackenzie says as she explains the training procedure for Verbena, the black Labrador mix puppy she was assigned.
“You have to make sure the dog is listening to your right command. We started with the ‘come’ and she nailed that.”
Verbena will stay with Mackenzie and her family until she’s ready to go to Seeing Eye University.
After completing her proper training to become a Seeing Eye Dog, it’ll be time for her to go to her forever home where she’ll be an important aid to a sight-impaired individual.
A Club That Trains Puppies to Become Seeing Eye Dogs
The Montgomery County Seeing Eye Puppy 4H Club is an amazing program for youth between 8 and 18 years old. The youth who join the club prepare puppies to go to foster families who will continue their training and upbringing until they’re 16 to 18 months of age.
This wonderful club is led by Kalie Desimone, a former Seeing Eye puppy trainer who began the program when she was only three and has recently turned in her 13th Seeing Eye Guide dog.
Kalie says that when it comes to giving a Seeing Eye dog a good start, age and experience is a non-factor.
“We need people to come and help raise and give these animals loving homes. You don’t have to have any experience with dogs whatsoever,” says Kalie.
The Seeing Eye Club provides all costs for food and veterinary visits. All the foster families need to do is provide a caring environment for the pooches. Love and patience are all that is required to give a Seeing Eye dog a good start.
A Finalist in the Calendar Competition
Every year the club organizes a calendar competition where members can vote for which dogs will make it to the Seeing Eye Puppy Calendar. This year, Verbena (Mackenzie’s black Labrador puppy) is a finalist!
This calendar helps cover the costs for all of the puppies that the club looks after. It’s a selection of the cutest photos of all of the fluffy future service dog pups that are in the program.
Parting Ways After Graduation
Verbena will graduate in about a year and a half, and this will be the end of Mackenzie’s job. She knows parting with her trainee will be difficult, but she also knows that it’s necessary.
“It is sad, but we know that she is going to help somebody and there are so many people out there who need a Seeing Eye dog,” Mackenzie says wisely.
What is a Service Dog?
A Service Dog is a dog specifically trained to work as an ally to a person with a disability. These dogs are trained to help people with different types of disabilities, but mostly, people who are blind or sight impaired.
There are numerous accounts of dogs helping humans, but the modern-day need for guide dogs began after WWI. It so happened that many of the men who came home from war had their sights severely damaged by mustard gas.
Gerhard Stalling, a German doctor, opened the world’s first guide dog school in 1916. He went on to open another center in 1927, in Postam, Germany. The American Dog Trainer Dorothy Harrison Eustis, who had been working with German Shepherds in Switzerland, visited this center and was impressed by its efficient training methods.
Dorothy went on to write an article about the success of this method, which was in turn published in The Saturday Evening Post, a prestigious American Newspaper at the time.
Morris Frank, a blind man, heard about this article and was deeply impressed and inspired by it. He thought this could be a great resource to bring to the United States. He contacted Eustis and together they founded The Seeing Eye, America’s first and oldest guide dog school.
How do Service Dogs Help People?
Many are the benefits that a Service Dog can bring to an individual, from providing mental health support to helping with a more concrete task.
The best breeds to be trained as service dogs are German Shepherds, Labs, and Golden Retrievers.
These are some of the different types of Service Dogs.
Guide Dog: These dogs help people who are blind or sight-impaired. They’re an important ally in helping sight-impaired individuals confidently navigate their environment.
Hearing Dog: These dogs help people who are deaf or hearing-impaired. They’re trained to be alert to sounds, providing much confidence to their owners.
Mobility Dog: These dogs help people who use wheelchairs or walking aids. They assist their humans in getting around and finding balance.
Medical Alert Dogs: These dogs are trained to alert the signal of a medical issue, such as seizure, low blood sugar, and the presence of allergens that can trigger symptoms in their humans.
Dogs are amazing. No doubt about it.
And so are exceptional children like Mackenzie, and each and every family who provides a loving home for these incredible service dogs in training.
By providing love and patience, they set the foundation over which a dog will learn to help disabled humans feel confident and at ease, helping make the world more inclusive to all.
Congratulations to Mackenzie and all the foster families helping service dogs!
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