We were fortunate to have a visitor here at VRS today…Izzy from 11Alive.  He is a 5 month old male Labrador who joined the 11Alive staff back in February.  He appears each Wednesday on the show, arriving at 5:30AM to the studio.  Izzy joined our  local NBC station who is one of only a handful of NBC stations across the country participating in NBC’s TODAY Show program ‘Puppy with a Purpose’.

11Alive is working with the Guide Dog Foundation who will help them raise and train Izzy for about 16 months.  In the end, Izzy will become a guide dog for an individual who experiences low vision and is legally or totally blind.  To learn more about Izzy joining 11Alive take a look at this video:  https://www.11alive.com/article/news/local/meet-izzy-11alives-puppy-with-a-purpose/85-523447701

Our own instructor here at VRS, Jamie Marks, has a guide dog that also came from the Guide Dog Foundation .  Her name is Frenchie and she and Jamie have been together 5 years this July.  There are a few mis-conceptions about a guide dog and a lot of unknown etiquette tips that VRS can share.  For instance, the purpose of the dog is to only guide the person around obstacles and indicate the location of steps and curbs, they may even be trained to find a few specific objects such as “Find the door” or “Find the elevator”.  But, the person actually directs the dog and must possess their own orientation and mobility knowledge.  In fact, the dog doesn’t know when it’s safe to cross the the street, he/she merely stops or tries to move the person if they see a car approaching too close.

A few etiquette tips from The Guide Dog Foundation include:

  • DO NOT pet or make eye contact with a working guide dog, especially when the dog is wearing it’s harness.  The dog is on duty and should NOT be distracted as the person is depending on the dog to do it’s job
  • Speak directly to the person not to the dog or another person accompanying the visually impaired person
  • Be specific when giving directions such as go left or right
  • DON’T grab the arm of a visually impaired/blind person to guide them, allow them to take your arm and walk a half-stp behind to anticipate curbs and steps.

While there are a number of types of service dogs, a guide dog is the top elite position.  Not all service dogs, of course, can be guide dogs.  Guide dogs are specially bred and trained for their positions.  Being a puppy raiser for a guide dog or service dog is a very honorable and fulfilling position.  So, if interested, contact the Guide Dog Foundation for more information.

It was a pleasure having Izzy visit VRS today and Frenchie certainly enjoyed meeting him.  It was nice for all of us who hadn’t met Frenchie as a puppy to see and hear how he started.  We’re sure Izzy appreciated meeting Frenchie too so he could see what his future holds for him!

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