Watching my two-year old Seeing Eye Golden Retriever, Xielo (pronounced zī-lə, as in Xylophone), help his instructor, Kristen Smith, through some of the busiest streets in Morristown brought tears to my eyes. I was so proud of him, that he got to this point of training. Only 50-70 % of dogs gets to a “town walk” and eventually get matched. I walked behind him, while our host, Kim Geczi, talked to us about what Xielo was doing at certain points in time.
Xielo was 7 weeks old when he was placed into my family’s household in January 2010. We take care of the puppies until they are old enough to go back to the Seeing Eye for training. I watched Xielo grow up from this puppy that chewed my shoe and peed on the floor to a dog that would eventually lead a blind individual through some of the busiest streets in America and Canada. I took him to training twice a month at the Essex County Puppy Club. He learned basic commands such as sit, rest, come, and lie down. I socialized him by taking him to the park, New York City, the mall, around the neighborhood, Newark Airport, The Liberty Science Center, the beach, my soccer and softball games, and even my classroom.
I am a Seeing Eye puppy raiser.
When Xielo turned 18 months old, he went back to the Seeing Eye to complete more advanced training and to get matched with a blind person.
While at the Seeing Eye, he took a medical test and an obedience test. He passed his medical with flying colors, and the obedience test later on. It was about five months until I got a letter saying that he had passed his tests and my family and I were invited to his “town walk”. A “town walk” is a 45-minute walk around the heart of Morristown that symbolically serves as his graduation from the training academy. The puppy raising family walks either behind or across the street from the dog that you raised as he leads his instructor through some of the busiest streets in Morristown.
The Seeing Eye matches a blind person with a dog that matches their lifestyle. If a blind person is retired and elderly, they will match him/her with a slower moving dog that would walk slowly enough for the individual to keep up.
If Xielo is not matched with a blind person immediately, The Seeing Eye will continue to keep him at their campus in training for 6 months to a year in a continuing attempt to match him with the most appropriate candidate with each successive monthly class of students. Visit the following link to learn more about The Seeing Eye. www.seeingeye.org
My family is currently raising a 9-month old yellow lab named Klein.