Veterinary Science Technology majors Jenda Kwiatkowski and Jillian Robinson are raising a seeing-eye service puppy on campus at SUNY Delhi as part of the college’s partnership with Guiding Eyes for the Blind. Their charge, “Chandler” is an 11 month old male Labrador retriever who accompanies the students to classes, dining halls and other campus facilities.
Kwiatkowski, a Syracuse native says she chose to raise a puppy for Guiding Eyes for the Blind because she had previous experience training therapy dogs. “I welcomed the challenges raising a service dog would bring,” says Jenda. “I also wanted to give back to the community. But since I committed to be a puppy raiser, it turned into so much more. I have met people both in and out of the Guiding Eyes program, and Chandler has already reached hundreds of people, both adults and children. He touches people in ways I never could, and I feel incredibly fortunate to be the person standing at the end of his leash.”
Dr. Meckel, lead instructor for the program, says that the guiding eye dog training is an excellent learning opportunity for the students. “It’s also a great way to teach the campus community about the important role of service dogs. Dr. Meckel says the college has been participating in the program since 2016. Chandler is the third dog to be raised on the SUNY Delhi campus.
Faculty and staff from across campus volunteer as “puppy sitters,” specially-trained individuals who watch the puppy for short periods when the students cannot be with them.
“Chandler has been a calm, cool collected pup since the day we met,” says Jenda and hopes that his behavioral assessment will determine if he goes on to “doggie college,” aka the Canine Development Center to be a guide dog. “He’s always been a quiet guy who likes to sit and observe his surroundings and just think things through. He’s the type of pup who will check in with his handler if he questions something, rather than have a complete melt down. I knew from the day we met that he was going to grow into an incredible dog!”
Sarah Petrak is a student assistant with the Office of Communications and New Media for SUNY System Administration. She is a studying Public Policy at the University at Albany.