Guest blog: Guiding Eyes trainer for a day

By Denise Ezekiel

The puppies are eager to say hi!
The puppies are eager to say hi!

In November 2014 my husband Mike and I joined many friends at the Peak Potential Fundraising Dinner. We bid on, and won, an amazing trip to tour the Guiding Eyes facilities in New York!

We chose to go during our daughters’ school break. Part of our package included a dinner at a wonderful restaurant called the Moderne Barn, and an overnight stay at a local hotel. We began our tour at the Canine Development Center in Patterson, NY. A lovely woman named Vikki was our guide. We met a geneticist who taught us that the mommy and daddy dogs are paired up very carefully! Some of the labs and shepherds at Guiding Eyes are specifically breeding dogs. They live with loving families, and the female dogs go the Guiding Eyes only when in heat, or when ready to deliver. The dogs are tested for strength of vision, hearing, muscle tone, skin and fur, cardiac and pulmonary systems and longevity. “Samples” from the male dogs are even flown all over the world to other guide dog facilities to strengthen their population. Mother dogs can have 3-4 litters before they are retired as loving pets.

Jordan makes some new friends.
Jordan makes some new friends.

We got to see some very young pups – some born 12 hours prior! Pups stay with their moms while they are nursing – up to about 6 weeks. While the pups are very young, they are introduced to human interaction. Volunteers come in at all hours to massage them, cuddle them, talk to them.

As soon as the pups can see and walk they are put in play areas with the volunteers to start to get introduced to sights and sounds and textures and distractions. Little cloth ribbons are even placed around their abdomens to get them used to the feel of a harness!

At around 8 weeks the pups are weaned from their mothers and go into the puppy pre-school! The puppies are now in groups of 2-3 instead of their larger litters to get them used to more independence. Here they start to work with trainers again in big playpens filled with stairs, slides, tunnels, grates, noises, fans, etc. Also, soft cloth harnesses are put on dogs that will tolerate them. At feeding time dogs are asked to sit and be still and quiet before being fed. It’s amazing how quickly they respond!

Elizabeth plays with Flyer in "puppy pre-school."
Elizabeth plays with Flyer in “puppy pre-school.”

My daughters Jordan and Elizabeth got to go into the training ring with some adorable shepherds named Flyer and Franz to work on some skills. Dogs at this age are learning how to respond to their name, tackle obstacles, distractions, crawl into tight spaces, etc. It’s a big jungle gym but they don’t realize that it’s puppy school!

Pups who seem willing and able to learn are sent from the Patterson facility to live with loving puppy raising families for the next year or so of their lives. Volunteer families, mostly on the East Coast, live with and love on these dogs 24-7. Here the dogs learn their basic commands of sit, stay, etc. They also attend training classes in groups near their homes and start wearing vests and going into public places.

Once the dogs are about 18 months-2 years old they return to the Guiding Eyes Training Center in Yorktown Heights, NY. Loving raisers must say good-bye to their friends and wish them success in their future! Here is where the second part of our tour commenced. We were greeted by Michelle, who was an amazing hostess, and treated us to lunch in the facility. We were also introduced to Tom Panek, President of Guiding Eyes, and his guide, Gus.

The Ezekiel family poses with Wrangler, who is training with the Today Show staff.
The Ezekiel family poses with Wrangler, who is training with the Today Show staff.

At the end of our lunch we had a wonderful surprise, celebrity pup Wrangler was in the building! Wrangler is in puppy training with the Today Show staff and his handler, Saxson. He was adorable and posed with us!

After lunch we met senior trainer, Melinda, and dog in training, Janice. Melinda demonstrated to us Janice learning how to identify a chair. These dogs learn hundreds of words and commands in their training.

The next exciting part of our afternoon was actually being blindfolded and being guided by 2 other dogs in training, Jockey and Anniken. Both are soon to graduate. We walked outside on a path and it was frightening and exhilarating! The dogs will stop to notify you of any change – a curb, a crosswalk, the sound of a car. It was scary for us just being on a safe path, so to imagine the trust put into these dogs to navigate a subway or train or city street (or mountain!) is mind-boggling to me.

The Ezekiels were blindfolded and led around outside by Jockey and Anniken, two dogs in training.
The Ezekiels were blindfolded and led around outside by Jockey and Anniken, two dogs in training.

Guiding Eyes raises about 500 dogs per year, and approximately 150 are placed as Guides for the blind or visually impaired. The dogs who do not pass the strict exams (or as we were told, choose a different career!) are sometimes trained as police/military dogs, autism service dogs, breeding dogs, or adopted out to their puppy raisers or another loving family.

Approximately 10-12 dogs per month graduate from the stringent guide program and are matched to students like Randy. Students come to the Patterson facility and live in dorms with their new dogs for about 3 weeks while undergoing intensive training and getting to know each other. Sometimes, experienced handlers, like Randy, will have the dog delivered to their home for the intensive training. The lifestyle of the handler is matched very carefully to the temperament of the dog. Some dogs are better suited for the city than others, for example. Some, like Autumn, are little spitfires that like adventure! Handlers must be able to provide exercise daily for their dogs and of course veterinary care.

When all is said and done, it costs about $45,000 to raise one dog! Blind humans do not pay for their dogs – they are gifted by Guiding Eyes. All money that is used to support the raising and training of the guide dogs comes from fundraising and donations. Once dogs reach retirement, their handlers are given first choice of adoption, then their puppy raisers, or another family on a very long wait list.

All of the facilities at Guiding Eyes were impeccably clean and warm and filled with loving staff and volunteers from the birth to training to retirement of these dogs. It was an amazing, eye-opening life experience for our family. We appreciate what we have, and appreciate all that goes into training Guide Dogs so that others may have a more independent, fulfilling life.

Thanks to Randy, 2020 Vision Quest and to the staff at Guiding Eyes for all that you do!

Denise, Michael, Jordan, and Elizabeth Ezekiel


A Guide Dog story: Winter storms still present as Autumn arrives in New England

Guiding Eyes shares fantastic news and begins a new chapter in Randy’s and Tracy’s lives!

By Randy Pierce

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end” – Closing Time by Semisonic

Meet Autumn, Randy's new Guide Dog partner, arriving in Nashua on March 16.
Meet Autumn, Randy’s new Guide Dog partner, arriving in Nashua on March 16.

Every Winter’s passing welcomes springtime to our lives. The many thousands of people so fortunate to have known the Mighty Quinn endured a most harsh winter. I will certainly honor and celebrate Quinn’s life, love, and many accomplishments.

Spring will arrive to New England on March 20th this year, but my darkest of winters will ease as Autumn, my new Guide Dog, arrives to Nashua on March 16. No dog would or could replace Quinn just as it was for Ostend and Modi before him. The new arrival will bring joy, freedom, and likely much love anew and begin a journey with so much possibility for our own marvelous moments.

Autumn is a 60-pound, 2-year-old “Black and Tan” Labrador retriever from Guiding Eyes for the Blind. The Black and Tan is a fairly rare color variation for the breed which already makes this girl a little extra special. She has been described as a “spitfire” with plenty of speed, a passion for working, and a love for the snow. That last bit may prove beneficial in our training which will begin, as mentioned,  on March 16!

Autumn stands at attention.
Autumn stands at attention.

We have been selected to undertake the 10-day home training program which is an intensive and localized training right here on the snowy streets of Nashua, NH. We may travel a bit to ensure exposure to all the various possibilities we might wish to experience together, such as a subway, but the primary focus will be on the basic needs and special attention to all the challenging routes which are part of my normal routines. She’ll learn with me our local bus system, the City Room Café(!), the YMCA, Mine’s Falls trails and probably even a school visit! As one added but very special bonus, the trainer who gave Quinn the foundation we took to incredible heights will be joining us for this training and transition.

“A person cannot cross the same river twice for the second time neither they nor the river are the same.” – Chinese Proverb

Each dog is different and part of the training is helping me to understand what Autumn needs and wants to make us the most effective team. I too am so very different from the 2006 version of myself who headed to Yorktown Heights, NY to meet with and learn from both Guiding Eyes and Quinn. The real beauty in building an effective and happy team is part of the incredible work performed by Guiding Eyes for the Blind and I could not be more excited to open myself up to all the learning and growing ahead for me and my next partner. Quinn changed me and my life in wonderful ways and now it’s time to begin an exciting new journey. I very much look forward to sharing the wonders along that path with my family, friends and the 2020 Vision Quest Community. Thank you all for the incredible, heartwarming love and support during the hardest parts of the last few months and thank you for joining us for this promising future with Autumn!

Autumn smiles for the camera!
Autumn smiles for the camera!



Spreading inspiration: The lessons of Peak Potential 2013

By Melissa Caruso

Randy and Quinn greet their fans at Peak Potential 2013.

Peak Potential has never quite been your run-of-the-mill event. Sure, some of it’s the same stuff I’d see at a fundraiser for my kids’ school: food, silent auction, raffle, the usual suspects. But at Peak Potential, you get to hear about the latest adventures and accomplishments of Randy and the Mighty Quinn, which never fail to uplift and amaze. You can get puppy kisses from the next generation of guide dogs, attending with their raisers. And the enthusiasm and support of the 2020 Vision Quest community is truly warm and wonderful.

Peak Potential is always a little special. But this year, the event transcended “a little special” and became a truly wonderful and moving experience.

With the sad medical news about Quinn’s bone cancer, I wasn’t sure if I’d see him there this year. But there he was, making the rounds as usual — only this time, his admirers got to feed him Charlee Bears. It was good to see his wagging tail and get a greeting sniff (after getting permission, of course). And he had a lot of admirers to greet — the place was packed almost beyond capacity.

The audience listens to Randy's moving presentation about the 2020 VQ mission.

Randy’s presentation began with assurances that Quinn’s life at home these days had turned into Play-a-palooza and Treat-o-rama, and that he and Tracy were spoiling the Mighty Quinn as thoroughly as he deserved. The applause that greeted this announcement was so vigorous and heartfelt that you’d have thought the Patriots scored a touchdown. It was one of many signs of the amazing, positive, supportive atmosphere in the room that night.

Randy also shared a video and photos that showcased Quinn’s playful side and gorgeous grin. To me, the way Quinn zips around like a happy maniac when out of harness underscores how incredible guide dogs are — he’s very much just a goofy, sweet, yellow lab, just like my own significantly less accomplished dog, but look at the amazing things he can do! The fact that Quinn and Randy are, when it comes down to it, just a normal dog and guy — they’re not actually superheroes, even though they may seem like it sometimes — only makes their example more powerful.

Quinn greets the next generation of Guide Dogs.

This is part of why Randy is one of those rare people who makes you feel like a better person just for knowing him. It doesn’t seem to make sense — how can just knowing someone improve you? But through his contagious inspiration, he does. I’ve seen it in action.

Due to winning a bid at an earlier Peak Potential, my family had the great honor of being a part of Randy’s hiking team for his penultimate hike in the summer 48, Mt. Carrigain. When planning for the hike, I agonized about whether to bring along my two little girls, who at that time were aged 6 and 9. They’re seasoned hikers compared to most kids their age, but at 10 miles round trip, the trail would be nearly twice the length of their longest previous hike, with a far greater elevation gain. But then I thought of the 2020 Vision Quest message, and I realized that there was no way I was going to tell my girls “you can’t do this, it’s too hard.” And sure enough, they rose to the challenge beautifully, and completed a hike that most grownups would consider a substantial accomplishment.

Peak Potential, Randy’s philosophy, and the sterling example on the trail of Randy and Quinn’s amazing partnership all made that possible. Without them, my girls and I still wouldn’t know that they had the capability in them all along.

I thought of that hike as Randy spoke of the accomplishments of 2020 Vision Quest this year. There was a lot to be proud of. Back when Randy first announced his intent to hike all 48 of the 4000’+ peaks in the White Mountains, those of us who knew him well suspected he might accomplish this goal early — but even so, we never would have guessed he would do it twice by 2013! And hearing Randy’s account of how the funds raised by 2020 Vision Quest for Guiding Eyes for the Blind and the New Hampshire Association for the Blind have grown dramatically from year to year was as heartening and inspiring as his comparison of the impressive numbers to the staggering cost of training a single guide dog was sobering.

The most popular item at the auction--an inspirational photo of Quinn.

Randy’s presentations are always a highlight of the evening, but I didn’t expect the auction itself to be thrilling and moving. I should have known better — with 2020 Vision Quest, you should always expect the unexpected. The incredible generosity and enthusiasm of the community came through in the live bidding, with heated but friendly competition for all of the items. Even the silent auction blew me away — this was the first time I’d ever seen such a high percentage of the items in a silent auction go for full price (or even more). But the most moving moment of the auction came when it was time to auction off a gorgeous print of the Mighty Quinn, beautifully mounted with a quote from Gandhi.

This auction went a little differently. Randy started out by asking how many people in the audience would be willing to pay a low price — $40 — for the print. A forest of hands went up. Then he asked us to keep our hands up, as he said higher and higher numbers, until he came to a price that we weren’t willing to pay. And he began counting.

The lucky winners, with part of the 2020 VQ team.

As he got up past $100, some hands went down, but many remained firmly in the air. Randy asked Tracy to tell him when to slow down, and kept counting, quickly. At $200, she still hadn’t asked him to — many hands were still up. $250, $260, $270… still, several hands thrust up with conviction in the crowd. A hush fell over the room.

As Randy kept counting, I looked around at the faces of the people bidding. I’m not sure I can describe what I saw there, but it was beautiful. The dedication, good will, love, faith, and more that one mighty dog has instilled in so many hearts was incredibly moving.

And Randy kept counting. Past $300, past $350, and still Tracy didn’t need to tell him to slow down. $400…$450…$490… $500.

Randy stopped, and asked Tracy how many hands were still in the air. There were four. With the agreement of all, he decided to make three more copies and give them each one for $500… so we’ll never know how high he would have had to count.

I like to think of those four prints, maybe hanging in the living rooms of four wonderfully generous people, and imagine guests asking about them. I envision those four lucky winners trying to explain, with an enthusiasm familiar to all of us who’ve done it ourselves, the Mighty Quinn and Randy, and all the amazing things they’ve accomplished.

Because when inspiration is that contagious, just knowing them is all it takes for it to spread, and take root, and grow.

We'll love you forever, our Mighty Quinn.



Guest Blog: A Picture Tour of Randy’s Presentations

By Kathy Dunn

From Randy's introduction at a school presentation, read by a blind student

For many of us we read about Randy’s speaking engagements and the interactions he has with the children in our communities.  However we don’t always have a chance to see them firsthand.

Donavan reading his introduction
Randy and Donavan enjoying a few moments together

I was lucky to have this chance as I traveled with Randy from Dover, New Hampshire to Portland, Maine. I watched a great deal of these speaking engagements through my camera lens, which I hope gives you a chance to see Randy sharing his message.

Our morning began at Woodland Park Elementary School in Dover. We received a wonderful greeting at the door from Donavan who would be introducing Randy to his entire school. Donavan is in the second grade, and like Randy, he is blind.  He read his introduction using Braille and with much exuberance told his fellow classmates that Randy climbs mountains, has a dog named The Mighty Quinn, and asked “Did you know he is also blind like me?”

"I have a question!" Woodland Park Elementary School

The students were incredibly attentive to Randy and I am certain it wasn’t only because of his cute dog. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I probably took 15 pictures of Quinn alone in his cute dog poses.) Students asked thoughtful questions and kept their hands raised in hopes of being able to ask the next question.

Woodland Park Elementary School

Portland, Maine was our next stop to speak to the students at East End Community School. They heard about some of Randy’s initial challenges and the progression of his vision loss. Randy also talked about the work that Quinn provides for him and the independence it continues to give him in his life.

East End Community School
Randy showing the kids how he uses technology to help him in his life
Randy and Quinn having a hug at the end of a presentation

Most importantly, Randy communicated his message encouraging children to accomplish the things they want in their life. Randy’s words: if they try… if they work hard… they can do it. Don’t give up in the face of the challenges. Keep working. You can do it.

These words were well received to the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade students as well as this student of life.

WCSH Channel 6 saying hello to Quinn

If having three presentations thus far was not enough, we dropped in at WCSH Channel 6 as Randy was being interviewed by Rob Cadwell for their “207” program. After the interview, Quinn got the “Off Duty” call from Randy and could enjoy some hard earned love from some of his new fans.

Our day did not stop there as we were now headed to the University of Southern Maine to attend the Guiding Eyes of Maine event. I learned something new about Quinn and I think we now share something in common: we like puppies.

Now, the Mighty Quinn is diligent in his work like none other and always the consummate canine professional. But you put a few other canine professionals in the room and it is like a reunion!

Do I really need to give a caption to puppies?

“Hiiiiiiiiii!  I’m Quinn!  Who are you?!?!?!  I am so excited to see you!!!!! Oh wait… was I supposed to be taking Randy someplace right now?”

While Randy was doing some meet and greets before his next speaking engagement, I headed over to the see the future canine professionals… the pups!

The finale of our day was Randy speaking to an audience of all different ages and all different abilities about his journey and his future. As it was said in the introduction of Randy “[he] makes the most out of life and will make you want to do the same.”

We all have abilities in our lives.  Some come with known and unknown challenges, however we need to see beyond them. We need to work beyond them.

We can’t have these challenges hold us back.  We can get to where we want to be. Simply put… we can.

Randy presents at Guiding Eyes of Maine event

Peak Potential 2012: A Success Despite Sorrow

By Beth Foote

A full house at Peak Potential 2012!
A full house at Peak Potential 2012!

On Saturday night we held our 3rd annual Peak Potential Charity Dinner and Auction. This year we had a record turnout of 136 in attendance, far greater than last year, and with over $10,000 worth of donated items for our charity auction. It was a successful event all around, our best yet.

However, the day began on a very somber note. All of the 2020 Vision Quest staff members received an email around noon from Randy telling us that his father had passed away in the small hours of the morning after a long illness. Randy said that the event was still on, and that it would be ok–the thing he needed most from us was our friendship and support. Together, we would get through the day and make the event a success.

Our hearts went out to Randy and Tracy. Given this earthshaking news, I didn’t know what to expect going into the evening. Last year, Peak Potential was a fun and festive night, full of laughter and lightheartedness. I wondered, how would this year be, with Randy and Tracy facing such a difficult burden?

Randy talks with his fraternity brothers from UNH.
Randy talks with his fraternity brothers from UNH.

I needn’t have worried. Randy and Tracy were buoyed up by the outpouring of support from everyone there. No doubt things were difficult for them, but the atmosphere of the evening was fun, warm, and loving. Randy was greeted by person after person offering good wishes and support. I was floored by the generosity of so many of the patrons of the event, bidding on the array of auction items and urging others to do the same. The spirit of the event was jovial and joyful, and together, our purpose was clear–we were all there to celebrate this crucial mission and make sure it could continue on into the future. We were all in this together.

One of the most wonderful parts of the evening was the contingent of marvelous people there who were raising puppies for Guiding Eyes for the Blind. Puppy raisers receive a six-week-old puppy from the program and then raise the tyke up, teaching them household manners, socializing them to be around people and as many different situations in the world as they can.

Banner, the youngest attendee of Peak Potential 2012!
Banner, the youngest attendee of Peak Potential 2012!

At 18 months old, the young dogs go back to Guiding Eyes for the Blind to undergo a six-month Guide Dog training program. These puppy raisers then go to their dog’s “graduation,” sending them off into the world to become a Guide for a someone suffering from vision loss. After raising these dogs, many go back and take another puppy and start the process all over again.

Many of these remarkable puppy raisers had brought their young dogs with them to the dinner. The youngest I saw was an adorable nine-week old German shepherd named Banner–I’m sure I’m not the only one who wanted to scoop him up and take him home.

Having so many of these dogs there helped to demonstrate in a very physical way organization’s mission. One of the most touching moments for me was when Chrissy Vetrano, Quinn’s trainer at Guiding Eyes for the Blind, talked to the audience about how Quinn had been the first dog that she had trained, and told the story of how difficult it was to give him up, worrying about whether he and Randy would be the right fit, whether he would be happy, etc.

At a crucial moment in their final walk, Quinn looked up at Chrissy with a look that clearly said, “Mom, I got this.” It was at that moment Chrissy knew she was doing the right thing. When she brought Quinn to give to Randy, Quinn bounded into the room to greet Randy and instantly she could tell from seeing them together that they would do great thing–more than either could have done on his own. And so they have.

Together Quinn and Randy have accomplished so much and have made a difference to so many who have heard their story. Guiding Eyes for the Blind has provided many Guide Dogs who have opened up their owners’ worlds to a greater degree of freedom and independence.

The contingent in attendance from Guiding Eyes for the Blind.
The contingent in attendance from Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

Chrissy’s moving presentation reinforced how important this mission was. Guiding Eyes and the New Hampshire Association for the Blind both help form an essential community of support and resources for people with vision loss. Together, all of us in attendance celebrated and rallied around this important cause. I know I for one have come away with a new enthusiasm for this mission and for this community of people.

We at 2020 Vision Quest depend on the support of our community to accomplish our mission–not only through donations, but through actions, and emotional support. I am heartened and happy at how generous, caring, and supportive this community is. On Saturday night, Randy and Tracy felt the benefit of this community of support in their own especially poignant way.

We look forward to what this year has to bring for 2020 Vision Quest. Randy plans to finish hiking the summer 48 in 2013, and to reach many many more students with his message of “Achieving a Vision Beyond Your Sight.” What else the future brings, only time will tell–but we have an amazing community of people who are all coming along for the ride.


A Dog-Gone Greeting to Remember!

By Randy Pierce

October marked the sixth-year anniversary of Quinn and me becoming a team. I remember the moment I knew the partnership was destined for the depth of love we have for each other.

A few weeks after Quinn and I had been matched together, I was asked to work an escalator and so an assistant was asked to hold Quinn while I was led through the escalator work with an instructor and no dog. It was the first time the two of us had been separated. I had been out of Quinn’s sight for only a few minutes and yet when he was guided back in sight of me, he tore free of the assistant and sprinted through the store to crash into me in a burst of incredible affection.

Sure it wasn’t the ideal Guide Dog behavior in one sense–but the moment was priceless for cementing our bond together. Six year later I can still hear in my mind the surprised and pleased reactions of both the instructor and assistant. They knew that they too had witnessed a very special moment.

A friend recently reminded me of a video showcasing another example of such affection. Chuck, a boxer, was reunited with his soldier after many months. The greeting stirs the heart, especially of any who understand the nature of our canine companions.

There’s a message here that Quinn and Chuck have for all of us. Never miss the opportunity to truly and fully show the appreciation you have for those you cherish in your life. Whether separated for a short time or long time, there is absolutely no wrong time to ensure the people in your life–and the pups too!– know how much they mean to you. If you think witnessing such a greeting or hearing such a story could warm your heart, try experiencing it!

Randy Pierce and the Mighty Quinn -- always together through thick and through thin!

Falling for Quinn: An Insider’s Scoop!

By Randy Pierce

Quinn in a coy moment.

Autumn is sneaking into the air and the fall season brought some big news to the 2020 VQ team of Quinn lovers. The trainer who taught Quinn at Guiding Eyes will be joining us for the Peak Potential Charity Event and sharing her part of the experience of this incredible career. She took Quinn in from his puppy-raising and helped guide him to the skills which eventually led to our team pairing in 2006, just before his second birthday–a birthday he happens to share with her.

His trainer has tremendous insight into his development as well as the progress Quinn and I made to earn our way to graduation. Those attending our Peak Potential event will have quite a treat and so will the Mighty Quinn as he has the opportunity to greet his trainer after six years.

Puppy Quinn sits on stairs with the caption "Stairs... I want to climb mountains."
Ambitious, even as a puppy!

In appreciation of this news, I thought I’d share a couple of Quinn stories worthy of telling. Not long after Tracy and I had begun climbing mountains together, she found the journal created by Quinn’s puppy raiser. On the back cover was a treasure made all the more powerful by the fact that we had already begun climbing without knowing it existed. It was a picture of Quinn sitting next to a flight of stairs with the handwritten caption, “Stairs… I want to climb mountains!”

Keeping with the stairs theme, Quinn and I were at the University of New Hampshire discussing with Brent Bell the possibility of me starting to join the Outdoor Education programs hikes in the White Mountains. Stepping off of what I distractedly thought was the curb Quinn had shown me, I was soon in a scramble down a flight of stairs!

The University had built an addition to a location I thought I knew well and this long cement staircase could have led to a severe injury and early end to hiking. While I flailed and stumbled down the steps, Quinn reacted quickly and kept pace enough to ensure I had just enough harness pressure to keep to my feet. Gasping for breath in heart-pounding panic, I miraculously stood on my feet at the bottom, barely aware of how I had not taken a severe injury inducing fall. Quinn meanwhile wagged mightily and gave his little hop of excitement to reassure me that he was there to keep me safe!

While I didn’t fall for Quinn then, I had indeed “fallen” mightily for him back in Yorktown Heights when we had been matched as a team! Through the years, he’s managed to reach a lot of people with his attitude and accomplishments. Perhaps you’ll share a story or two of your experience with Quinn directly, or even from just following his legendary life!

What a friendly fella!

Ever want to raise a puppy? Give the gift of a Quinn!

By Randy Pierce

Foster a puppy and help change lives--including your own.

How does a puppy get to become as incredible as the Mighty Quinn? It all begins with a puppy raiser opening his or her heart and home to a little bundle of energy. This means committing to educate, socialize and guide the puppy into a promising future.

The relationship and bond between raiser and pup will become the foundation of all the life lessons the puppy will need for his incredible career. This is no small task, so to offer assistance, Guiding Eyes for the Blind organizes puppy raising regions from Maine to North Carolina. They establish a strong support system which allows them to help anyone, regardless of prior experience, successfully raise a puppy!

Puppy raisers come from all walks of life, with many different motivations. Couples, families, students and individuals are all part of the success stories of guide dog teams. These amazing animals will spend from the time they are about 8 weeks old to 18 months old in the keeping of these special people. In this time, they will blossom into confident, curious, intelligent, and (best of all) loving dogs ready to embark on a priceless journey.

After their fostering is over, they go to guide training at the school for six months more. When their training is complete, the school invites puppy raisers to attend the puppy “graduation.” Raisers proudly observe the results of all their generous efforts to change someone’s world.

I can readily attest to the success of this program: the freedom, safety, independence, and companionship Quinn give me as my guide are a fundamental part of my life.

Raise a puppy, change a life!

Guiding Eyes has a slogan: “Raise a Puppy, Change a Life!” Here are some experiences of present raisers; it is clear that the life they change is often their own!

Sue and Fred Hurwitz

“It’s so enriching to watch the puppies grow into responsible guide dogs.”

Gauthier Family

“Our main goal in doing this is to offer something back to the community, something tangible. We want to help improve the quality of someones life. We hope to also encourage our children to develop empathy and strong moral character.

“In the short time that Jefferson has lived with us our lives have changed a lot: the kids have had to become more responsible.”

Peggy Farrar

“GEB has been so rewarding and my pups have brought so much laughter, love, and happiness. They have truly changed my life.”

So if you have ever given thought to having a puppy, consider how much more powerful and significant an experience you may have if you give a home to a “Quinn in training”!

The next generation!

For more information about being a part of this team, you can visit the Guiding Eyes for the Blind website at or call them at 1-866-GEB-LABS. If you are near the New Hampshire region where Quinn makes his home with me, you can also call Regional Coordinator Bill leBlanc at: 603 801-2117.

All potential raisers are required to complete a series of pre-placement classes and a week-long sit of a pup already in the program before receiving their first puppy. The next orientation for this region is December 18. Consider being a part of this wonderful program and having a dog as marvelous as Quinn guiding you along your own journey!

The puppies are waiting for you!

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