Shadow is our latest Seeing Eye pup.
In partnership with The Seeing Eye in Morristown, my wife Kate and I have raised eight puppies (and counting) to prepare these wonderful dogs for their lives as service animals.
Shadow is a cross-breed pup, mostly Labrador but with one Golden Retriever grand-dad. She’s still very small. But her sweet, pensive personality is already shining through. At just three months old, Shadow already knows some of her commands (like down and rest) and is learning to sit for long periods. This is very important for service animals, who accompany their partners to work and may need to travel for long hours without a break.
Shadow was born at The Seeing Eye, which runs a special breeding center. They work with Labs, Golden Retrievers, Shepherds, and Labrador/Golden Retriever mixes—all breeds that partner with humans exceptionally well, on an advanced level. The dogs are bred specifically for temperament and intelligence. There’s even a geneticist on staff, charged with continually improving the quality of litters.
About 20 families in the Princeton area serve as Puppy Raisers. We receive pups when they reach seven weeks, and we undertake the job of socializing them, teaching them good house manners, and exposing them to the many environments and situations they’ll face as service dogs. We visit retail stores, walk busy streets, board trains, etc. Our goal? To ensure our pup has “seen it all” so they'll grow up calm and confident.
Our community of Puppy Raisers is close and supportive. Shadow enjoys play dates with other puppies every week to help with her socialization, and she even spends overnights with her pals when my wife and I are traveling.
Shadow already has work to do, and she does it beautifully. Kate and I give presentations on The Seeing Eye at schools and senior centers, and Shadow is our star attraction. She seems to understand perfectly that when she’s wearing her vest, she’s training—and must be at her best. Back at home, when her vest comes off, she knows she can be an affectionate pup again.
When she reaches 15 months, Shadow will return to The Seeing Eye. She'll undergo four more months of advanced training before she’s paired with a blind person—her partner—and changes a life forever.
We will be very sad to see Shadow go, but we'll be excited for her, too. As you can imagine, Kate and I always feel conflicting emotions when the day comes to say goodbye to any of our pups. Just recently, we said goodbye to our last wonderful charge. But we always feel very proud of what our pups' futures hold, and the small part we can know we played in it.