STEVENSVILLE - Just in time for Christmas, six Guiding Eyes for the Blind pups – Gary, Sama, Greer, Empire, Betty and Grant - were transported by Pilots to the Rescue from Guiding Eyes in New York to the Bay Bridge Airport on Kent Island. The dogs arrived on Dec. 19 to meet their volunteer puppy raisers for the first time.
The puppy raisers were from the Bay, Delmarva and Montgomery regions of Guiding Eyes for the Blind. It was a windy, blustery day but the weather could not dampen the excitement of the pups, raisers and the flight crew.
The new partnership between Guiding Eyes for the Blind and Pilots to the Rescue will assist in the transportation of pups between Guiding Eyes’ New York headquarters and the many puppy raising regions.
Black lab pup, 8-week-old Grant, is being raised by Catherine Langston, an 11th grader at Saints Peter and Paul. Grant is the third Guiding Eyes pup raised by Catherine and the Langston family of Sherwood.
“According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, (ASPCA) each year, approximately 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized (670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats). This is unacceptable. With your help, we can reduce these statistics and spread awareness about this huge problem,” a statement on Pilots to the Rescue’s website says. “Pilots to the Rescue (PTTR) is a non-profit, volunteer-driven, 501c3 public benefit aviation organization. PTTR’s mission is to transport domestic and endangered animals as well as people at risk. PTTR supports its network of trained volunteer pilots so they can focus on their missions and do the greater good.”
Guiding Eyes for the Blind President Thomas Panek says on the group’s website, “Every day, we work together toward a common and simple mission: to create meaningful connections between exceptional guide dogs and people with vision loss at no cost, so that they can experience all of life’s adventures. And our work is more urgent than ever. In the U.S. alone, 75,000 more people will become blind or visually impaired each year.”
Guiding Eyes for the Blind was founded in 1954. More than 500 pups are born annually, 92% Labradors and 8% German shepherds, with more than 150 guide dogs being placed every year. These dogs are free to people with vision loss.
Volunteer puppy raisers take pups into their homes at approximately eight weeks old and teach them basic obedience and house manners while socializing them to the world outside. Puppy raisers return the dogs at 16-18 months old, and senior breeding and training staff determine whether the pups are ready for guide dog training or more suited for another career.
Potential raisers or puppy sitters attend orientation sessions to learn the skills they'll need to start training puppies. Raisers attend training classes throughout the time they have their pups.
Puppy-raising regions span 14 states: Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Colorado.
The Delmarva Region has two class locations: Easton meets at the Talbot Community Center on Tuesday evenings and Delaware meets at the Motts Senior Center in Middletown on Wednesday evenings. “Raise a ‘puppy with a purpose’ and help give the gift of independence, freedom, and confidence to a person with vision loss,” a statement from the group said.
In Easton, there are currently five puppies being raised, with another five in Delaware. The Delmarva Region has been in existence since 2008.
Catherine’s father, Jeff Langston, said, “Change your life and the life of another! What better reward than to receive the unconditional love of a puppy and then, ultimately, to give the gift of loving freedom and companionship to a person who has lost his sight. The experience of puppy raising has changed our lives … from the confidence and responsibility we saw building in our children, to the simple moments of joy during our daily routines. Let a Grant change your life!”
To learn more about Pilots to the Rescue, visit pilotstotherescue.org.