SPOTSWOOD, NJ - It was definitely a cuteness overload at the Spotswood Public Library on Thursday when Carma, Bowie, Landon, Fiona, Gypsy, Tammy, Lester and Koda stopped by. The pups were a part of the Seeing Eye presentation on July 26, but it was the meet and greet afterwards that caused quite a stir. The puppies became the immediate center of attention as library patrons enjoyed giving pets, scratches, belly rubs and of course receiving a few puppy kisses.
These puppies with a purpose are in fact seeing eye and service dogs in training. They were on hand along with their foster parents to answer questions about training a pup to become a guide dog. The Seeing Eye in Morristown has been helping the blind "enhance their independence, dignity and self-confidence" through the use of guide or seeing eye dogs since 1929.
The first step in the lengthy process involves the playful pup. Each puppy earmarked for the program is given to a volunteer foster person or family when the pup is around seven to eight weeks old. The foster family takes care of the puppy until he or she is about 14 months old. Basically, the pups are taught basic obedience commands such as sit, stay, come,heel and wait. The puppies also need to experience a wide variety of social situations just like they would if the puppies were to become seeing eye dogs.
Then, the puppy is returned to the center in order to receive intensive training. According to the Seeing Eye, only about half of the puppies fostered actually graduate to becoming a guide dog for the blind. If a puppy doesn't make the cut, the foster family has the option of adopting the pup or the dog is then made available for general adoption.
Service dogs have a long history of assisting people with sensory issues like sight and hearing loss as well as mobility issues, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, cancer, autism and epilepsy. They have also been utilized to help soldiers and people suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.
More than 30 people came to the Puppy Pals presentation at the Spotswood Public Library with many showing a keen interest on becoming involved in the Seeing Eye's puppy raising program. It was such a hit the pups may be making a return to the library in the future.
For additional information on The Seeing Eye and their puppy raising program, visit their website.