SUNY Oneonta Student Raises First Guiding Eyes for the Blind Puppy
There’s a new student living and learning on campus, but he’s only 27 pounds … and has paws.
Ink, a 4-month-old black Labrador Retriever puppy, is making history at SUNY Oneonta as the first pup to be raised on campus for Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a nonprofit organization that provides guide dogs to people experiencing vision loss. His puppy raiser, and roommate, is junior Anthropology major Taylor Hendrickson, president of the university’s new Guiding Eyes for the Blind club.
“We were aiming to raise a puppy on campus this semester but didn’t realize it would happen this soon,” said Hendrickson, who brought Ink home to Oneonta on Jan. 20. “He’s still getting used to a college setting, but he’s doing really well! He has been with me to meetings in Hunt Union and Starbucks and even tabled with us at Club Expo to find new members.”
A Puppy With Purpose
When they’re not exploring campus or resting in Hendrickson’s res hall room, the duo works with Guiding Eyes Leatherstocking Volunteer Region Coordinator Amy Blechman, who comes to campus weekly for “puppy foundations class” – “kind of like Kindergarten for puppies” – where the focus is for “Team Ink” to bond as a team and get exposure to a variety of experiences. Right now, they’re working on name response, walking politely on a leash, waiting for food, sitting, and staying “off” instead of jumping up. Once Ink successfully completes the foundations class, he will work with Taylor on building his skills in “big dog class,” with several one-on-one check-ins along the way with a Guiding Eyes Regional Puppy Instructor.
“It’s a whole new language to learn for them both,” Blechman explained. “Ink lives right on campus with Taylor, growing and exploring while learning how to be a helpful and conscientious guide dog. It’s wonderful for Taylor, too, because she has to balance academics with this huge responsibility – you have a little life to care for and train!”
Volunteer puppy raisers for Guiding Eyes bring puppies into their home and teach them basic obedience and house manners while socializing them and introducing them to everything the world has to offer.
Puppy raisers return the dogs at 16-18 months old to Guiding Eyes, where they are tested to determine what their future career path will be. Puppies like Ink are specifically bred by Guiding Eyes to ensure that they have superior health and the temperament needed for guide work.
By the time Hendrickson walks across the stage for commencement next spring, Ink will also be “graduating,” ready to be tested on his skills, reactions to noises and unidentified people, and more at the Guiding Eyes headquarters in Yorktown Heights, NY.
@sunyoneonta Meet Ink! ???? a 4-month-old black Labrador Retriever puppy who’s making history as the first to be raised on campus for @guidingeyesfortheblind! His puppy raiser is junior Anthropology major Taylor Hendrickson, president of our new Guiding Eyes club. Tap the link in our bio to learn all about this inspiring partnership! #fyp ♬ original sound – SUNY Oneonta