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Volunteers in Need of Space to Train Future Guide Dogs

The Dominion Puppy Raising Region will lose its home in a Vienna church Feb. 15.

Guiding Eyes for the Blind’s puppy raisers in Northern Virginia are in need of a new space to help train young puppies and help them on their way to becoming adult guide dogs.

The Dominion Puppy Raising Region, made up of 18 volunteers who raise and socialize puppies for 12 to 16 months, currently holds group classes at the Vienna Presbyterian Church. Volunteers have taught their pups at the church for a few years, said Carrie Barnett, Guiding Eyes’ regional program manager.

But now the church wants use the space to accommodate other groups, so the Dominion Puppy Raisers will be in need of a new training space starting Feb. 15.

“This is a great opportunity for us to look for a space that is better suited for our needs,” Barnett said.

Puppy raisers receive their puppies when they’re eight weeks old. It is the volunteer’s responsibility to socialize the puppy and teach it to be obedient. When they’ve grown to be about 18 months old, they are sent to Guiding Eyes for the Blind’s training facility in New York to be evaluated and, if successful, entered into the guide dog program.

“Our puppy raisers are really the heart of the organization in that they have the dogs for a very long time and we definitely wouldn’t be able to have successful guide dogs without a large group of puppy raisers,” Barnett said.

The Dominion Puppy Raisers need a space to hold weekly classes in which officials monitor puppy progress.

Barnett said she is looking for large rooms that could comfortably hold five or six dogs and their trainers. These rooms should have tile floors and easy access to the outdoors, as well as trash and bathroom facilities. Stairs are a plus, Barnett said, because the puppies should get acclimated to them early on.

Since 1993, the Dominion Puppy Raisers have successfully trained and socialized 470 puppies and helped them on the road to becoming guide dogs. Barnett said she has trained seven puppies so far.

Ideal towns include Vienna, Fairfax, Springfield, Arlington, Falls Church, Annandale and Oakton. Those interested in donating space are encouraged to contact Carrie Barnett at 410-960-7427 or via email at cbarnett@guidingeyes.org

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