Published at PO Box 96 124 W. St. Clair Romeo, MI 48065. Phone: (586)752-3524 Fax: (586)752-0548
Updated Wednesday, December 04, 2013 at 3 PM EST
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You are Viewing an Archived IssuePosted: 10/02/13
Above, local puppy raisers and their Future Leader Dogs (FLD), from left, Sheila Robertson of Leonard and Henrik, Judie Kimpan of Leonard and Pepper, Kayla Dever of Rochester and Mowgli, Samantha Hagemeister of Armada, Michelle McLean of Washington Township and Liat, Deana Hagemeister and Leroy, and Washington Township resident Wendee Salinger and Rayna. One perk of being a puppy raiser is that you name the puppy. Henrik is named after the Red Wings captain, Henrik Zetterberg. Liat means "you are mine" in Hebrew. Mowgli is a favorite character from the novel by R. Kipling. The name "Rayna" just came to Salinger who wanted a "different" name. Below, McLean signals her FLD Liat to be quiet. The puppies are often excited when they get together as a group. When wearing their scarf or jacket they learn they are "working" and cannot play.
(Photos courtesy of Judith Kimpan)
Puppy raisers training
in downtown Romeo
by JUDITH KIMPANTails are wagging in downtown Romeo. Come and watch what it takes to teach a puppy to become a Leader Dog for the Blind.
Observer Special Writer
The monthly puppy raisers' meetings are now being held at 6:30 p.m., the third Monday of the month at the Romeo Masonic Lodge, 231 N. Main St.
Puppy raisers are recruited from volunteers who have the desire to help. Volunteers are required to attend monthly meetings and are assigned a puppy counselor to answer questions and provide help. Various outings puppy raisers may attend include bowling, train rides or mall walking.
It all started in June when Michelle McLean, Washington area puppy counselor for Leader Dogs for the Blind, contacted Romeo Lions Club member Betty Bucsek, asking her if she knew a place to meet once a month in the area to practice obedience skills.
"Leader Dog is one of the reasons the Lions exist. We are knights of the blind," Bucsek said.
McLean was looking for a large space, a variety of steps and a building not far from traffic-filled intersections that can add variety to the puppies' training experiences.
Bucsek met at the Romeo Masonic Temple to send packages to soldiers and knew the building was not being used every day. Masonic member Rob Wisnieski was then asked if the puppy raisers could meet once a month. Wisnieski, also a Washington Lions Club member, arranged a meeting with McLean, Romeo Lions Club President Tim Schamante and Mike Catazora of the Romeo Masonic Temple. They decided that the Leader Dog puppy raisers could meet the third Monday of every month and meetings would be open to the public.
Now all three organizations<Romeo Lions Club, Washington Lions Club and the Romeo Masonic Lodge<work together to sponsor Leader Dogs.
``There are narrow hallways, walk out the door and you have downtown with the library and the post office. They are getting all these things to learn in one corner. I couldn't have found a better building," Bucsek said.
A sign displayed in the window when meetings are held welcomes visitors and alerts passersby to come in and watch.
Bucsek was impressed after she attended a Leader Dog program where she experienced walking with a Future Leader Dog.
"I was blindfolded and led everywhere. I felt so safe. You put your trust in an animal . . . it was amazing. I believe in the program wholeheartedly," Bucsek said.
Leader Dog is looking for more volunteers to become puppy raisers. McLean would like to provide information to interested parties.
"I am delighted to help raisers gain skills they need to be successful; however, it is unfair to recruit people without making them painfully aware of how much work, commitment and time it takes. As long as an applicant understands what is expected, Leader Dog has lots and lots of ways to provide the help and support; they need to enjoy their experience," McLean said.
A puppy raiser picks up their puppy when it is about 8 weeks old. They will help socialize and teach basic obedience, keeping the puppy for about a year before the puppy returns to Leader Dog for formal training and evaluation.
A typical meeting combines training in traffic, crossing busy intersections, climbing stairs and loose leash walking. Puppies learn to climb stairs slowly, waiting for the raiser and practice basic obedience in the distracting group environment.
At the last meeting the puppies followed one another down a dark hallway. Kayla Dever, who helps assist McLean, explains how Leader Dogs may work in the dark.
"Clients don't often turn lights on," Dever said. "It's something to be aware of."
A question often asked of puppy raisers, "How can you give up your puppy?"
Dever explained, "My dogs have a higher purpose. They are to be someone's eyes, someone's ticket to the world. They will give someone the freedom I have in my own life. They will be so much more than a dog to someone. How could I possibly be so selfish as to not let them go and fulfill that destiny?"
For additional information about Leader Dogs for the Blind call (248) 651-9011 or visit their website at www.leaderdog.org