Commentary: On Training Wrangler and Other Future Guide Dogs

image2Training a future guide dog requires a lot of time, effort and patience. Those who watch the Today Show on a regular basis got the rare opportunity of seeing the training and socialization of Wrangler, a prospective guide dog. The Today Show partnered with Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a nonprofit organization in New York that trains guide dogs for people with vision loss. For over a year, viewers saw how puppies are trained and exposed to different social situations. Wrangler’s time on the Today Show concluded last week, and now the formal guide dog training begins!

We at the Chicago Lighthouse know firsthand the importance of well-trained guide dogs and service animals. These special dogs enable their handlers to live full and independent lives every day. People who are blind or visually impaired can travel independently with the help of guide dogs, and this obviously gives them more freedom to go wherever they please. Most importantly, these animals help their handlers travel safely, thereby giving them more confidence in going out of their comfort zone and trying out new things.

As much as we would not want to think about it, guide dogs can only work for a limited number of years, typically from 8 to 10. Handlers choose to retire these dogs for a variety of reasons. Such is the case with Promise, the faithful guide dog of Maureen Reid. Maureen is a job placement counselor at the Chicago Lighthouse, and will soon train with a new dog. Like Wrangler, Maureen’s soon to be guide dog received special training and socialization as a puppy from a volunteer puppy raising family. Thanks to this training, the pup will know how to behave and react during different situations it will likely encounter as a working dog.

I am thrilled that the Today Show and Guiding Eyes for the Blind showcased the training of Wrangler. This partnership will spread more awareness to the general public, both about what it takes to train a guide dog and about how these animals assist those with vision loss. Although guide dogs are allowed to go anywhere with their handlers, many people still refuse their entrance to businesses. I sincerely hope that by learning about Wrangler and guide dogs on the Today Show, people will become more aware about the importance of these special animals.

Kudos to Guiding Eyes for the Blind and the Today Show for such an entertaining and informative project! The media has a great potential of spreading awareness about disabilities, and Wrangler’s year long appearance on the Today Show did just that. I hope that more media outlets and nonprofit organizations will join forces in the future. Finally, best of luck to Wrangler on his formal guide dog training! I’m sure he will be a great guide dog thanks to all the support he received from his puppy raiser, the Today Show and of course the thousands of viewers who kept track of his training and progress!

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