Meet Sophie. As loyal, friendly, and fun as a puppy could ever have been. For Sophie’s first sixteen months our family took on the fortunate role as “puppy raisers”, and the experience changed our lives forever- as beloved pets so often do.
On a typical day in Morristown, NJ, if you walk around town you are likely to see the wonderful work of the Seeing Eye Foundation in action as the dogs, matched with a trainer, practice for when they will be assigned to a visually impaired partner. However, before the dogs are ready to be trained, they must spend their first twelve to sixteen months with a foster family, known as “puppy raisers”.
We adopted Sophie, our first with the Seeing Eye, in the spring of 2016. We quickly grew to love Sophie as she became our family’s best friend. She was loyal, fun, and incredibly patient; never seeming to mind the near constant tugs and pulls from our enthusiastic five year-old. She became part of the fabric of our family. We all knew and understood our role as a family: to love and care for her until she was ready for training. And so when the white van from Seeing Eye pulled up our driveway last spring, it was with incredibly heavy hearts (and a lot of tears) that we said goodbye to our friend, Sophie. Our experience with her reminded us of the important virtues of patience, community, simplicity, anticipation, discipline, and above all love. We were grateful for time we had with her, and we knew that she was moving on to serve a greater purpose. Those first few weeks without her were filled with emotional reminders of our time together. What filled those empty moments, was the hope that she was in good hands, playing with other dogs, and successfully progressing through her training.
A few weeks ago, approximately four months after we said goodbye, our family was invited to Morristown to see Sophie’s “Town Walk”. This is an opportunity for puppy raisers to see their dog navigate the sidewalks, streets, and crosswalks with an assigned trainer. We didn’t get to approach Sophie as she was no longer our’s and it would not have helped her training, but we did get to follow her from a short distance. It was a powerful experience for us, to see the dog we loved, cared for and raised well on her way to this new life of service. It was both sentimental, gratifying and comforting to see that she was happy and cared for.
I thank my wife for coming up with this idea, becoming Seeing Eye puppy raisers, for it was an experience for our family that united us in a common purpose and brought us memories that will last a lifetime. We recently were informed that next week, our family will be adopting our second puppy! Sophie would be so proud.
To learn more about the Seeing Eye Foundation, visit their website at seeingeye.org.