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A fuzzy labor of love

"We're looking for puppy-raisers and puppy-sitters," said Cheryl Lawyer, a region coordinator for Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

"Puppy raisers are the backbone of the guide dog program," said Lawyer.

When trainers take the puppies into the home, they already know their names, are housebroken and kennel-trained. It's the job of the trainer to teach them to sit, stay, be polite in public, have good house-manners and more. Eventually, dogs learn to navigate heavily trafficked streets and how to navigate owners around modes of public transportation such as subways and busses.

"They're very smart little buggers," said Lawyer.

According to Lawyer, you don't have to be a dog trainer to partake in the program.

"For the most part we're just helping to raise a good puppy in preparation for the [next step]," said Lawyer.

She said it's important that people are able to make the full commitment. Volunteers must attend class twice a month " for those in the region, classes take place at Christ Church United Methodist in Glens Galls and generally run from about 5:30 to 8 p.m.

Guiding Eyes covers all vet costs " volunteers are expected to provide food, toys and "a nice place to sleep."

"It's a family affair. We have husband-wife teams, mother-daughter teams, mother-son teams and one gentleman who is retired and all he does is take care of that dog," said Lawyer of the variety of puppy-raisers currently volunteering in the program.

The Taszul family is giving away their puppy, Carlton, on Nov. 10, and while they are preparing themselves emotionally, they're looking forward to when they're invited to Carlton's graduation and they get to meet his final owner " a blind person " who really needs him.

"Graduations are awesome. You listen to the graduates speak about how these dogs are totally going to change their lives. It's very cool," said Taszul. ""

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