Guide Dog Graduation
Ojai, California residents, Sue Westbrook and the Vondriska family watched with pride as Charlie, the puppy they had raised to be a guide dog for the blind, graduated on Saturday, August 24, 2013, to begin his life as a companion.
Westbrook and the Vondriskas are members of the local Guide Dogs for the Blind puppy raising club called Ventura County Puppies with a Vision run by Vicki and Rick Wait. The club is comprised of 10 volunteer members who raise puppies and perform other jobs as well.
The Guide Dogs for the Blind organization uses Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and Lab-Golden mixes as guides. After a puppy is born at a Guide Dog kennels, a volunteer puppy raiser takes the puppy in when it is around eight weeks old. The raisers’ job is to socialize the puppies, which includes house-training, teaching them good citizenship, and introducing them to new experiences.
When the dogs are about a year and half old, they return to Guide Dogs for official guide-work training, after which they are matched with blind students from around the country who are also enrolled at the school. The new team completes a thorough in-residence instruction that ends with a graduation ceremony where the raiser formally presents the dog to its new blind partner.
Westbrook and the Vondriska’s presented Charlie, a black male Labrador Retriever, to Michael Garduno of Colorado, who is extremely active. He has earned a black belt, loves to travel, and is an avid hiker, so Charlie is guaranteed an exciting, adventurous life.
Guide Dogs for the Blind was originally established to help veterans blinded in combat during World War II. Receiving no government funding, the group depends entirely on private donations and volunteers, who can get involved by visiting their web site at www.guidedogs.com.