July 29, 2020
Guide Dogs for the Blind based in San Rafael has been around since 1942. For more than 75 years the organization has lived by its mission statement: “Guide Dogs for the Blind empowers lives by creating exceptional partnerships between people, dogs and communities.”
Thousands of people have benefitted from these words. It is through volunteers and donors that GDB is able to offer trained service dogs free of charge to those with low vision or complete loss of sight.
Months of training go in to the making of each service dog, after which they graduate and are matched with a partner. This partnership offers freedom to individuals who may not otherwise have the opportunity to lead independent lives. Puppy raisers are a crucial piece to the success of the Guide Dog for the Blind program.
Lauren Jamieson of Girl Scout Troop 907 took on the responsibility of being a puppy raiser for her Girl Scout Gold Award. Her goal, she told Village Life, is to get the word out about service animals and to show the impact guide dogs have on people. “My Gold Award addressed how service animals can make a positive difference in people’s lives who have special needs,” she explained.
Jamieson’s dog Dipsea is on her way to becoming a Guide Dog for the Blind graduate. Dipsea, a black Labrador retriever, lived with the Jamieson family from the time she was just 8 weeks old. For nearly a year puppy raisers have the responsibility of socializing, teaching and taking care of the pups until they are ready for their next step of training and returning to the GDB headquarters.
For Jamieson, giving people knowledge about service dogs was her focus. She took Dipsea to local elementary schools to make the experience more meaningful for kids. Using PowerPoint, she created a presentation about service dogs and designed educational booklets filled with information for classrooms and libraries.
“I was proud that students gained knowledge of how service animals can make a positive difference for many people with different special needs,” she shared. “They also gained the skills to know what to do when they encounter a service animal and how they can make a difference through numerous volunteer options.”
Jamieson also handed out stickers,” (a) sustainable method to bring awareness, create conversation and continue to keep my issue sustainable for years to come.”
It was a learning experience for Jamieson.
“I was proud of myself that I could contact school administrators, communicate effectively through emails and phone and implement my Girl Scout Gold Award on a timely basis,” she said. “I realized that it was challenging to be organized, set goals and implement the tasks on schedule.
“I was most proud of my presentation skills. I did not realize that I was so comfortable and good at presenting in front of large groups. I enjoyed creating the presentation but preferred presenting it to see the positive reaction from the audience,” she added. “Through this process I have gained confidence in my presentation skills, organization skills and ability to lead and make decisions on my own.”
Dipsea in a couple months will leave the Jamiesons’ home and return to the GDB headquarters, where she will continue her formal training. If all goes according to plan, Dipsea will graduate and be matched with a partner who will benefit from all that Dipsea has learned over her first year-and-a-half of life.