Who doesn’t love puppies? They’re cute, cuddly, and these little balls of fur are doing some MAJOR good.
Approximately 10 million people in the U.S. are blind or visually impaired. But only 10,000 of them (in the U.S. and Canada combined) use guide dogs. Shocking, right? Well, one young person is working to change this.
The “Seeing Eye Puppy Raiser’s” club, created by DoSomething.org scholarship winner Lauren Horning, looks to give the visually impaired even more independence. The 19-year-old recalled that the club was inspired by Rana Arnold, a vocal supporter of the Seeing Eye who happened to be blind.
Arnold had wanted to start a 4-H club that would raise Seeing Eye dogs as their project and sought out Horning’s father’s help. “My dad brought the question to me because if I said yes, our family would be the first puppy raisers in the county,” she shared. “Wanting a puppy, my answer was of course, ‘Yes.’ I don't think I really fully knew what I was getting myself into at the time, but looking back I'm really glad I agreed.” (We would have tots jumped at that opportunity too.)
Together the three put together the Centre County 4-H Seeing Eye Puppy Raisers club. Eventually what started as eight puppy raisers grew to 42 volunteers. And the group has successfully trained five puppies to become guide dogs.
Having raised the dogs for seven years, Horning relayed that there were a lot of fond memories. But it’s bittersweet. “It is never easy to send a puppy back to the Seeing Eye after I've trained it,” she stated. “I still remember the look in my first puppy's eyes, Nigel, when I closed the door to the van to send him off to New Jersey. It was heartbreaking.”
Although Horning felt like she was losing a friend, she shared that she was extremely proud of the dogs and knew they would be bringing new life for those visually impaired.
The college freshman says she never expected Seeing Eye puppies to raise so much support and is so glad she got involved. Horning’s advice for other young people—“Do something you love.”
“I think every person regardless of age should always try to volunteer with something every day of his/her life,” she added.
What can you do?