Conn: Guide dogs high in demand

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    Guide dogs high in demand

    Updated: Wednesday, 31 Jul 2013, 6:11 PM EDT
    Published : Wednesday, 31 Jul 2013, 6:11 PM EDT
    BRANFORD, Conn. (WTNH)-- There's a big demand for guide dogs, but there are not enough puppy raisers to fill the need.

    It's Julia Annicelli's job to get nearly one-year-old Wally ready to be a guide dog.

    "You want to make him comfortable and acclimated to do different things," said Annicelli.

    The golden retriever is already pretty comfortable with the family's pet chickens.

    Julia and her mother Maria are puppy raisers for Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

    "We wanted to give back to the community and this is a great way to do it, and we love animals," said Annicelli.

    Maureen Hollis is the regional manager for the puppy program.

    "There is always a shortage of raisers, we are always looking for volunteers," said Hollis.

    "Julia's job is to give him socialization and get him out onto sidewalks and in places he will encounter people and other dogs," said Hollis.

    The first twelve weeks Julia and Wally attended weekly classes, where both learned basic obedience skills.

    Now, the focus is turning Wally into a more thinking dog.

    "Dogs that can make a decision for somebody who gives them a command that could be detrimental to their health," said Hollis.

    "Hopefully he'll be able to help someone and make a huge difference in someone's life, dog barks, hey sit, even if he doesn't become a guide dog," said Annicelli.

    Seven-year-old Gandolf has been guiding Dorothy Denny for four years now.

    "I've got about 30 percent vision," said Denny. "I had three different kinds of canes and I kept on tripping on broken sidewalks, go on cross streets, tripping on curbs."

    After the two were matched up, they went through six weeks of harness training.

    A lifeline for people like Dororthy.

    "I get out, I go to restaurants, I can go to stores with him," said Denny.

    Not all the puppies raised become guide dogs for the visually impaired. Only 50 percent of them make it through.

    Some are assigned to the group's healing autism program for children, others go to Connecticut State Police or ATF.

    For more information, visit https://www.guidingeyes.org/ .

    http://www.wtnh.com/dpp/news/new_haven_cty/guide-dogs-high-in-demand#.UfruY21Vd-w
     
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