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Local volunteers help raise puppies to become guide dogs

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Updated: 10/25/2012 5:53 pm
A lot of people have dogs that can do some pretty cool tricks - but did you ever wonder how guide dogs learn to be the eyes for their owner?

One way is through a program called Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

At training class in Colonie, the puppies play as though they're average pets, but they train with specialized techniques to prepare them to become guide dogs for the blind.

“It takes a very special dog to become a guide dog,” said Guiding Eyes for the Blind Regional Coordinator Barbara Paquette.

Duchess is one of 12 dogs in the Capital Region in the Guiding Eyes for the Blind program.

Judy Caputo became a volunteer puppy raiser back in 1990. Duchess is now her sixth dog.

Caputo has raised Duchess for the past year-and-a-half, attending training every two weeks, to get the pup ready for formal guide dog training.

“Heel,” Caputo said, as Duchess sat at her feet. “This is position the dog should be able to take for person they're going to work with.”

Caputo and Duchess will have to say goodbye on Friday as the dog heads to Westchester County, where she'll be evaluated for the formal six-month training.

If she is accepted into training, and then passes, Duchess will then be paired up with a blind person.

“You go into it knowing that you love the dog and you love the person that’s going to get the dog,” Caputo said. “It's going to be hard. She goes in Friday, but we will live through it and someone will get a great dog."

Meanwhile, another puppy raiser, Diana Traegler, has a year left with six-month-old Colby.

“So these are the very first stages,” Diana said as she told Colby to “sit” and “come.”

Traegler has raised three puppies before and says it never gets any easier to release them back to the program.

“It’s like losing a good friend,” she said.

But it's her way of giving back.

“The animals, they become the eyes of a blind person, and for that reason, it is much, much easier,” Traegler said.

Caputo agrees. As she prepares for a quiet home at the end of the week, she keeps in mind that the joy Duchess brought to her world will change someone else’s.

“It's the way I see life, we're here to do things for each other,” Caputo said.

There is Guiding Eyes graduation every month in Westchester County.

If you want to volunteer to raise a puppy for the program, CLICK HERE.

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