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Guide Dogs program leashed by COVID guidelines

Guide dogs are continuing to attend school with their raisers during the hybrid schedule. Photo by Maya Bussinger

COVID-19 has been a tail of strife for the Guide Dog Puppy (GDP) program as many puppies have been shuffled back and forth between GDP Headquarters and their raisers.

When the pandemic struck, puppies that had graduated to a new level of training were sent back to their previous raisers and are only now beginning to return. Puppies that were close to graduation have had their graduation delayed until further notice.

Sophomore Erynn Burcham further explained these safety procedures.

“The dogs have to go through… 8 or 9 phases… when they go back to the guide dogs campus,” she said. “All the dogs that were in any of [those] phases had to stop being at the campus… for the safety of the trainers. They slowly brought the dogs back that were already in the phases but they had to restart from the first phase and work their way back up. The puppies we are training will go back at a later time than they normally would because they had to shut down the guide dog campuses and things had to slowly open back up.”

Sue Perrone, Bear River GDP Club Leader, gave an update on the status of the club.

“The program is slowing down due to COVID-19, but we expect GD to resume breeding soon then we will need more raisers,” she said. “The group has to stay under 10 so we have five raisers this year and there’s room for a few more.”

Juniors Bailey Ham and Francesca Slane elaborated on the difficulties that COVID-19 has brought upon the GDP organization.

“We had far less meetings than we usually would have, and we have a limit of 10 people for the meetings,” said Ham. “This puts quite a cap on the amount of puppy sitters we can have, making it a little harder for everyone. It’s also made it harder to get the puppies socialized and out working like they would have been doing all summer. We have three new puppies in the club, and none of them have been in school yet, so that is also a challenge to get them used to it.”

“COVID has… made it extremely hard on the raisers to try and get exposure for our dogs,” Slane said. “The older dogs need something to keep them engaged and the younger ones need experiences to expand their horizons. Though, all-in-all, we’re fairing pretty well and we’re really proud of the doggies.”

Sophomore Aimee Brink advocated for the growth of the club, talking about the GDP Club’s partnership with this year’s Ag Barbeque.  

“The Ag BBQ is drive-through this year to help with crowds and this year they are pairing with the Guide Dogs for the Blind Club at school,” she said. “The money will be spent on things like ferry tickets [for] our annual trip [to] San Francisco or if one of the puppies graduates, it is a tradition to pay for the dog’s harness. You can also support Guide Dogs for the Blind by going to Club Rush. If you want to join, come to our weekly meetings. They are at the school every Wednesday at 9am. Be sure to contact our club leader Sue Perrone at (714) 473-0117, because due to the coronavirus pandemic, we can’t have more than ten people at our meetings.”

Brink is a new raiser this year and commented on the time she has spent raising her puppy, Island.

“My puppy raising experience has been great,” she said. “Island is a quick learner and has been a great trainee. I would really recommend this to everyone.”

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Guide Dogs program leashed by COVID guidelines