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The Current

Zolldan’s service dog graduates with honors

Senior Paige Zolldan hands over her guide dog Thelma to Claire Mansfield, who is blind. Courtesy Photo

If you’re considering volunteering as a dog trainer, watch out — you may also be getting a new best friend.

Paige Zolldan, a senior, finished her guide dog training. Her dog Thelma was given to Guide Dogs of the Blind to complete the program. On March 25, the dog graduated and was given to a blind person who needed a service animal.

Zolldan elaborated on how when she trained her dog, who eventually became her best friend.

“I got the dog on June 26th 2015, and I gave her up on July 16th 2016,” Zolldan said. “All through that I was training her for different things. It’s always hard to give the dogs up, like she was my best friend. I always did things with her like all the time. I had her 24-7, no matter what, like she was with me everywhere.”

Zolldan explained what guide dog criteria is and how it works.

“I was training her to meet the guide dog criteria, which is a lot of things,” she said. “You have to get them out to do basically everything, get them exposed to as much as possible so they can be calm and do their job without getting distracted.”

“To become a dog trainer,” Zolldan said. “You have to sign up through FFA or you can go to a outside club, and with that you will have meetings every single week. Ours are on Wednesdays if you want to go. I recommend it; you can become a dog walker.”

Zolldan talked about why more people should become guide dog trainers.

“You will get a best friend out of it; it’s really really fun,” she said. “I really recommend it because it’s like really, really rewarding when your dog passes and it’s just really, really nice that you’re helping someone out. Like you’re really giving them a pair of eyes and independence and freedom that they’ve never had before.”

Noah Danieli, a senior at Bear River, talked about why dog training is important.

“I think that the dog training process is pretty rigorous since it’s non-stop training from the time we pick them up until they graduate,” he said. “I think that it shows that Bear River is a hardworking and caring school when a dog graduates into a working guide.”

“It’s a lot of work,” Danieli admitted. “But it’s worth it in the end when you see how impactful it is on someone else’s life.”

“I think the puppy project is a wonderful asset to the FFA program and the school,” said Sue Perrone, Zolldan’s guide dog leader.

Perrone talked about the guide dogs and their trainers.

“So far we have had 5 dogs go on to become working guides and I could not be more proud of all of the students who have made the huge commitment to raise giving up more than 1 year of their time to raise a puppy.”

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Zolldan’s service dog graduates with honors