Founded in 1929 as an organization for developing guide dogs to help the blind live full and productive lives, The Seeing Eye has become a preeminent U.S.-based organization for helping the visually impaired. How it works is simple: The Seeing Eye breeds German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and Labrador/Golden crosses. When the puppy is about 7-8 weeks old, it’s given to a volunteer “puppy raiser” who cares for the puppy until it’s about 12-18 month of age. It then goes back to The Seeing Eye to be trained and matched with a blind or visually impaired person.
Roger and Sheila Woodhour of Trilogy® at Lake Frederick know The Seeing Eye program very intimately, having fostered an astounding 32 puppies, all of which are part of the program. “It’s a joy to be part of such an amazing organization as The Seeing Eye,” said Roger. “Our job is to help every puppy acclimate to living around other people, in everyday situations around the neighborhood.
When a puppy is delivered to a volunteer puppy raiser, it’s the responsibility for the volunteer to teach basic commands, instill discipline, and also to develop a sense of belonging and purpose for each puppy. “The most important part of what we do is to let every puppy know what it feels like to be loved,” said Sheila. “Eventually, they will be relied on by those who can’t see, and we want every puppy to feel valued, loved, and properly cared for in their early formative weeks.” Seeing eye dogs are legally allowed in places where pet dogs aren’t. Even though not fully trained, part of the process in raising these puppies means they go where fully trained guide dogs will, but only with permission from the venue since they have not completed their training.
“With permission, we take puppies everywhere,” said Sheila. “This includes restaurants, swimming areas, airports, trains, buses, cars, a person’s workplace—virtually anywhere a blind or visually impaired person may visit during the course of their daily lives.” In addition to Roger and Sheila’s involvement with fostering puppies for The Seeing Eye, the couple also helps Trilogy residents learn more about getting to know their puppies and inquire about how they, too, can help support the mission of The Seeing Eye. “We don’t just develop a connection with animals,” said Roger. “It’s also about connecting with those who need guide dogs restore their dignity and independence—which is the motto behind all that The Seeing Eye does.
To learn more about The Seeing Eye and the puppy raising program, visit www.visitseeingeye.org.
About Trilogy Members Roger and Sheila Woodhour
Roger and Sheila Woodhour have been raising and providing basic training of puppies for The Seeing Eye, located in Morristown, NJ, since 1991. Their 32nd puppy, “Granite,” a male German Shepherd, arrived earlier this year at the ave of seven weeks and will stay with them for training and exposure to a wide variety of environments until he is approximately 15 months old. Roger is the retired President & CEO of Roll Ease, Inc., an engineering/manufacturing company located in Stamford, CT. Since his retirement in May of 2005, Roger has devoted additional time to his volunteer work at The Seeing Eye. His own dog, Luke, was a certified therapy dog through Therapy Dogs International. Roger and Luke visited a variety of healthcare facilities including hospitals, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes. Also, Roger and Luke participated in the R.E.A.D. program, a children’s reading program that involves animals, at a New Jersey Middle School. Sheila, in addition to being a puppy raiser, has been involved with The Seeing Eye as a long-term volunteer working at The Seeing Eye’s main campus as a receptionist, escorting puppy raisers on their “Town Visits,” and working with blind students and their guide dogs at The Seeing Eye Downtown Training Center.