There are so many directions I could go for my first real blog post. Since I promised puppies, and who doesn’t love puppies, I’ll start there.
Saturday was Family Day at The Seeing Eye, Inc. It was the 35th annual celebration of puppy raisers (1500 this year) who are invited to visit the home base of The Seeing Eye in Morristown, NJ, for all sorts of fun and festivities. There are dog demos, graduate talks, seminars, face painting, hot dogs, ice cream, and meeting and greeting other puppy raisers and Seeing Eye staff. The day is provided to thank the volunteer puppy raisers for their part in the mission of The Seeing Eye–to enhance the independence of blind people through the use of Seeing Eye dogs.
I am often asked how I got involved in puppy raising. The answer is simple; I wanted to teach my children character. In the 1990’s I was homeschooling my children. At every homeschool fair I went to, I heard the same message–teach character first, then academics. But the question I always had was the same, too. How do we teach character. Sure, we can model it for them and read stories about people of character. But how can we teach them character in a way they can grasp, a tangible, hands-on way.
Then we saw a Seeing Eye puppy demonstration. Kids were raising puppies, showering them with love, teaching them commands, obedience, and manners, taking them everywhere they went for exposure, and finally, giving them back so they could become the eyes for a blind person. A lot of love and work went into this project, all for someone else, a complete stranger. This is what I was looking for. And you get to have an adorable puppy for a year, too!
“The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord has made them both.” (Proverbs 20:12) This is the verse from which The Seeing Eye derives its name. We have been raising puppies for 20 years now, currently with #22. It has been a blessing in so many ways. It did teach my boys a lot of character traits like responsibility, consistency, patience, as well as public speaking, leadership skills, and that a puppy in the mall works as a chick magnet.
You could practically trip over the spiritual parallels, but you won’t because, you know, we’re talking about guide dogs. In a beautiful picture of how God leads his children, Seeing Eye dogs guide their people safely where they need to go. Often the blind people are oblivious to the many dangers the dog keeps them from. Sometimes the dog stops and shows the person the problem and then leads them through it. Sound familiar? One thing you might not know is that the dog does all this because they love the person they have charge of. It’s not for a paycheck, it’s not even for a milkbone, they do it because they love that person and want their love and praise in return.
The most important thing the blind students are taught is “trust your dog.” If the dog stops or changes direction, there is a reason. The blind person needs to trust the dog is stopping or changing course for their good and follow the dog’s lead. As Christians it can be scary to trust God’s leading when we can’t see where he is taking us. But as we learn to trust him, we find that he makes our steps secure (Psalm 40:2).
Puppy raising taught all of us lessons we never even considered when that first little ball of fur arrived at our door 20 years ago. And I certainly never expected a career to come of it! I am so thankful for all we’ve learned and all the puppy love we got to experience. Below are photos of #22, and scenes from Family Day.
For more information about The Seeing Eye, Inc. and the puppy raising program, visit their website at http://www.seeingeye.org.