A few years ago the Appirio Silver Lining engagement program performed an Extreme Cloud Makeover for Can Do Canines. After seeing what the Can Do Canines can do (pun intended) for people, I was so inspired that I wanted to get involved somehow. I found out that an awesome organization called Southeastern Guide Dogs was located nearby.
Our family hasn't had a dog for a couple of years as we are very busy and on the go quite often. However, my 7 year old daughter had been begging for a dog so I thought we'd at least appease her by "puppy hugging". Now this is a great marketing tactic/trap by Southeastern. Essentially the entire family goes into a room and about 5-10 puppies (4-6 weeks old?) just run all over you. Boom! Hooked! Where do I sign up?
So my wife and I talked about the commitment and decided that for a year we could be dedicated to raising a puppy for someone that needs a guide dog. The hardest part was explaining to our daughter that the dog would be temporary and that we were raising the dog so that it could leave and help someone that truly need help. There is a lot of responsibility knowing that what you are doing could literally change someone's life. So I went to a number of training classes, we had our house inspected and finally received Vance in March 2012.
Raising a guide dog is not an easy task but it is a wonderful experience. Vance came with a 125 page manual on how to take care of him. Our main goal was to teach him 15 or so basic commands (come, stay, heal, etc) and socialize him with everyone. Vance had to be taken out into the public at least twice a day to get used to the world and boy did he ever. Vance spent 100% of his time with me and we went everywhere together. The grocery store. Dinner at restaurants with the family. The beach. The library. The gas station. Everywhere that I went (yes, even public restrooms), Vance went with me.
Well I'm glad to say that Vance made it as a guide dog and graduated a couple of months ago. Only 40%-50% of the dogs raised actually become guide dogs so I guess we did something right. Each month Southeastern has a graduation ceremony where the puppy raisers get see the dog they raised again and meet the "person" they are matched with. Here's a short video of the family meeting Vance again after leaving us a year earlier.