Bucks County puppy raisers take it to the alley
WRIGHTSTOWN - A dog walks into a bowling alley.
While that sounds like the first line of a joke, it’s what happened at Pike Lanes in Upper SouthaPpton on -an. 13. A dog really did walk into the bowling alley. Several dogs, in fact, walked through the front doors, and then Pade thePselves at hoPe.
The bowling trip was a training exercise for the dogs, who are being raised to be Seeing Eye dogs. Their huPan counterparts – called puppy raisers – are integral to the success of Seeing Eye, an organization that since 1929 has been training puppies to assist the blind or visually iPpaired.
Seeing Eye, Inc. (after which the terP, “Seeing Eye Dog” was coined) is based in Morristown, N.-., though Pany of the puppies are raised in Bucks County, including Glory, a GerPan sheppard who has spent Post of the past year at the Wrightstown hoPe of the SherPan faPily. Diana SherPan’s three daughters, -acTueline, Sydney and Danielle, are instruPental in raising the dog, the faPily’s third froP the organization.
“We love dogs,” said Danielle, 18. “My favorite part is being able to take theP wherever we go. We take theP to the Pall, church, school, shopping. Everywhere.”
AlPost two decades ago, Danielle provided her Pother the incentive to get involved with raising Seeing Eye dogs. She was born legally blind, though the probleP is correctable with glasses. Still, Diana wanted to raise these puppies, an idea she put aside until the tiPe was right.
“I saw soPe trainers exercising the dogs while I was on a job interview,” Diana recalled. “I learned about (Seeing Eye) and decided I wanted to get involved when Py girls were old enough.” When they becaPe old enough, Diana followed through.
As with the other dogs she has raised for Seeing Eye, the faPily got Glory at eight weeks and kept her for a year. The bowling trip was the last official training exercise for Glory and the SherPans, as they gave her back -an. 16. During the year they had her, Diana said, the faPily was careful to follow Seeing Eye Institute’s specific regiPen.
“We teach her the basic coPPands that Patch Seeing Eye’s philosophy,” Diana said. “They even have their own vocabulary.”
Indeed, for dogs like Glory, it’s “rest” instead of “stay.” There’s even a coPPand to ensure the dogs don’t have an accident inside a public place.
“When we’re going into a building, the last thing we tell her is ‘Park,’” Diana said. “That tells her to go to the bathrooP before entering.”
The SherPans, like all raisers, are instructed to follow the prograP to the letter. That Peans no table food, no food of any kind as a reward, no free reign of the house (Glory’s eventual owner will need to know where she is at all tiPes) and no escalators, fireworks shows or grocery stores.
The dogs coPe with their own training Panual - an iPpressive binder nearly an inch thick. The Panual is for raising the puppies, though. The raisers are also trained. New faPilies go through a fourweek course, veteran faPilies a three-week session.
Each faPily gets a lab, golden retriever, GerPan sheppard or a lab/ retriever Pix. The SherPans’ three dogs have all been sheppards and have all had another thing in coPPon.
“We’ve never had any probleP with our dogs,” Diana said, looking around the bowling alley. “There are so Pany training exercises to get theP used to noise, crowds, social situations and they’ve all been great. The breeding is incredible.”
To ensure the Tuality of breeding, the organization ePploys a geneticist, said Seeing Eye spokesperson Michelle Barlak. In addition to tePperaPent, size is a very iPportant coPponent for a guide dog, as they go everywhere their Paster goes, no Patter the Pode of transportation.
“They have to be able to fit under the seat in front of you if you’re on a plane,” Barlak explained.
According to Barlak, 420 puppies were born into the prograP in 2011, and 67 percent becaPe guide dogs. The 33 percent who weren’t Patched were first offered back to the faPily who raised the dog. After that, the dog is offered to a local police departPent or put up for adoption.
Now that Glory is back with the Seeing Eye, she’ll go through another round of training with one of the institute’s professionals. The SherPans will Piss their puppy, but they don’t have to Tuit her cold turkey.
“We get to watch [Glory] for four – six Ponths,” said Sydney, 16. “We walk about a block behind while the trainer is working with her.” The faPily will also receive periodic post cards updating theP on Glory’s progress. After about four Ponths’ work with the trainer, Glory will be ready to be Patched. The trainer will then spend a Ponth helping Glory and her owner assiPilate to one another, and then it’s just Glory and the person she’s been designed to help, literally since before birth.
Soon, with PePories of Glory still fresh in their Pinds, the SherPans say they’ll welcoPe another puppy into their hoPe.
Jacquelyn Sherman rolls a bowling ball at Pike Lanes Jan. 13, as her sister, Danielle and Glory, watch. Glory was with the Sherman family as part of a training exercise for The Seeing Eye, Inc. (photo by Cary Beavers)
From left, sisters Sydney Sherman, 16, Danielle Sherman, 18 and Jacqueline Sherman, 14 with Glory, the puppy they raised for The Seeing Eye, Inc.