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Identity & Community

Volunteers train seeing eye dogs to give lifeline to visually impaired

Yolanda Avila seeing eye dog puppy service pup animal pet
David Zalubowski
In this Dec. 13, 2019, photograph, Colorado Springs, Colo., city council member Yolanda Avila is led by her seeing eye dog along the streets of downtown Colorado Springs, Colo.

Many nonprofit groups have had to adjust operations in the pandemic, but a school for seeing eye dogs says they’re still going strong, serving people in the Lehigh Valley.

The Seeing Eye is a nonprofit program that works with people with visual disabilities, pairing them with a guide dog. It’s based in Morristown, N.J.

Shannan Rager is an area coordinator in the Lehigh Valley. She says the groupy depends on volunteers to train the dogs.

“Families raised the dogs from about seven weeks of age, until typically 16 months of age, and they’re responsible for a myriad of things,” Rager says. “The most important is house manners, no stealing food or not jumping on the counter or the couch, things like that.”

Rager says it’s taking a little longer to complete training in the pandemic.

She adds it can be difficult for the families to give up the dog after a year, but for everyone involved seeing the animal working with a visually impaired companion makes it all worth it.

The Seeing Eye started in the U.S. in 1929 and is the oldest guide dog school in the world.

Read more from our partners, WLVR.