Those shopping at Tractor Supply Company on Aug. 7 had a few unexpected fellow shoppers — those of the four-legged variety. Members of Stanislaus Paw Dogs, a guide dog training club, took a field trip into the Turlock store — and the neighboring movie theatre — to help the canines get real world experience.
Guide dogs are noble creatures, specially trained at the hands of thousands of volunteers across the country to serve those in need of some extraordinary assistance. Training an exceptional guide dog begins when a puppy is born.
Volunteers at Stanislaus Paw Dogs welcome a future guide dog into their home. The foster homes are where the puppies' training and socialization takes an important turn. They become comfortable with home life, learn basic obedience, and begin to experience the world.
“We are a group of adults and kids who volunteer to raise puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind in the Modesto and Stanislaus area. We have puppy raisers in the Los Banos, Turlock, Modesto, and Oakdale areas,” said Carrie Meschers, leader of Stanislaus Paws Dogs.
A Stanislaus Paw Dog volunteer cares for the puppy at about 10 weeks old and raises it until it’s about 15 months old. During this time, it is the volunteer’s job to teach the puppy good house manners, basic obedience, and socialization.
“There are about 19 puppies in our club, which means 19 families in the Stanislaus County area have a guide dog puppy in their household,” said Meschers.
According to Meschers, raising a guide dog puppy is a very trying, fun, and rewarding experience.
“It is not a pleasant day when the puppy is recalled and we have to return them to the Guide Dog campus,” said Meschers. “What makes it easier is knowing that you have taken this little ball of fur from a 10 week old baby puppy to an amazing, loving, well-behaved dog who could possibly quite literally change the life of a blind person.”
For those who think raising a guide dog might be right for them, the first step is to come to a Stanislaus Paws Dogs meeting.
“Our club meets every Tuesday night at different locations. We have a socialization outing on the first Tuesday of the month and a business meeting on the third Tuesday. The other Tuesdays are baby puppy/new raiser meetings. We invite anyone who is willing to make a difference to join our organization,” said Meschers.
For more information on Guide Dogs For the Blind, visit Guidedogs.com or call 1-800-295-4050.