[GUITAR MUSIC] FRANCES CHEN: When I came to Cornell as an undergrad, I found out that they had Guiding Eyes for the Blind here as a region, and then I started to get involved just when Guiding Eyes was really starting to make a presence on the Cornell campus. We came together with other students and started Guiding Eyes for the Blind at Cornell. Guiding Eyes for the Blind at Cornell is an undergraduate organization that takes these guide dog puppies in training and allows undergraduates to get involved, taking these dogs to classes, taking them on long walks, and basically helping socialize our puppies.
So as puppy sitters, we're not necessarily responsible for a single dog. We help raise all the dogs in the region by exposing them to extra socialization opportunities. And as you can imagine, the college campus, both within the College of Veterinary Medicine and the greater Cornell campus, provides a lot of different opportunities for these puppies to see a lot of different sights, walk on different surfaces, be exposed to a lot of different smells and people. And so it's proven really beneficial to everyone, because our puppies obviously get the benefit of that training, but our vet students and undergrads also learn a lot about dog behavior.
A raiser's goal is to take a young puppy from Guiding Eyes for the Blind eight to 10 weeks old and raise them until they are around 16 to 18 months of age. And we teach them all the basic house manners, socialization, and build their confidence so that they want to form a relationship with someone and they have the confidence to do well once they enter the formal harness training.
As a guide dog, they need more than just obedience. They actually need what's called intelligent disobedience, where if a blind person is crossing the street and they ask their dog to go forward and there are cars coming, then the dog will disobey to protect both him/herself and his or her visually impaired person. How you foster that kind of critical thinking that these dogs need to have is to really nurture a positive and rewarding relationship with them while they're young. And our training philosophy is called relationship-centered training, where we're always using positive reinforcement to teach them how rewarding it is to have a relationship with a person.
The student services, the administration, the faculty, the staff, and all the students have been so respectful and also very receptive to the presence of us training the dogs. But also, the feedback that I've gotten from my fellow vet students has been really rewarding. In a professional manner, just in terms of exposing them to canine behavior, but then also, just kind of giving them different opportunities to look at what it would be like to have a career with nonprofit service organizations and what the roles of veterinarians are in those nonprofit service dog organizations.
I know that the experience of raising these puppies-- getting obviously, very emotionally attached, and then kind of allowing them to exit your life because you know that they need to go on to something, in a sense, greater-- is going to be different for any given raiser. I think the ultimate feeling that I get is just kind of gratitude that I was lucky enough to be, in a sense, taught by this dog, because each and every single one of them teaches you something different. And I'm really grateful to be a part of Guiding Eyes and just a part of the process that produces such great dogs. And I really couldn't have done this, in a sense, without the support of the vet college community.
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College of Veterinary Medicine faculty, staff, and students form a network of volunteers who help raise and socialize puppies for Guiding Eyes for the Blind, an internationally accredited guide dog school based in Yorktown Heights, NY. The Cornell chapter hosts as many as 17 dogs on campus on any given day.