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Dogs that show the way

By ERIN WIGGINS

The Mirror

For most people, puppies are cute, cuddly and sometimes overwhelming to deal with. Imagine not only having to deal with puppies all the time, but raising them for almost two years and then having to give them away.

A select group of people in the Puget Sound area do this all the time. They raise guide dogs. One of those people is Kelly Reiter, who is raising her fifth dog, Trinity.

“I have never thought of these dogs as my own,” Reiter said. She sees raising them as a privilege.

To raise guide dogs, a person must attend meetings, take classes and follow a guide given to them by Guide Dogs for the Blind Inc.

The puppies and their raisers belong to clubs that give the raisers training and organize outings for the puppies. Outings include riding on buses or walking along the Seattle waterfront. These outings help make sure that the dogs will have experience with any situation that a blind person would be in, according to Barb Baguhn, the leader of Training Paws 4-H Guide Dog Club in Auburn.

The puppies are bred in California. The breeds that are used are German shepherds, Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers and lab/golden crosses. The qualities that the breeders look for include temperament, intelligence and health.

A puppy is placed with its raiser when it is 8 weeks old. It will usually stay with that raiser until it is 14 to 18 months old. The raiser takes the dog almost everywhere, gets it acclimated with public life and teaches it basic obedience, according to Reiter, who lives in Kent.

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