Bob and Pam English, longtime Saugus residents, have been raising puppies for Guide Dogs of America since 1987. They are now on their 31st — an 8-week-old Golden Retriever, who, at 16 to 18 months old, will return to GDA’s Sylmar campus to begin formal guide work skills to help the visually impaired.
Pam English said the couple may have hit the record high number of dogs fostered.
“It’s always hard to say goodbye to the puppies, but we focus on the greater good in that,” she said. “We’re part of a village that it takes to raise the puppy til the formal training it goes through (to help their) future partner.”
Guide Dogs of America relies exclusively upon volunteers to raise its future guide dog prospects. The volunteers, called “puppy raisers,” welcome puppies into their homes and teach them basic obedience, impeccable house manners and how to be calm and confident in a wide variety of public settings, said puppy program coordinator Stephanie Colman.
The dogs come back after 16 to 18 months to be formally trained in guide dog skills. Then, they are matched with blind clients from throughout the United States and Canada during a 21-day course. Throughout the course, clients live on GDA’s campus and to work with their guides. Clients receive the dogs and instruction free-of-charge, Colman said.
In addition to puppy raising with GDA, Bob and Pam English volunteer as area leaders for GDA’s Sylmar puppy raiser group, overseeing monthly group meetings and supporting fellow puppy raisers throughout the Santa Clarita and San Fernando valleys.
Pam English said she plans to raise more dogs even after 31 foster pups.
“It’s been a wonderful adventure and privilege to get to do that,” Pam English said. “It contributes to helping someone else obtain the independence, mobility and companionship they need. The enrichment we get from doing that is more than enough payment.”
GDA places approximately 60 dogs per year. At any given time, there are 175 puppies in puppy volunteer raiser homes, Colman said. The campus is located at 13445 Glenoaks Boulevard in Sylmar.
For more information, please call Guide Dogs of America at 818-833-6447 or visit guidedogsofamerica.com
The organization is frequently recruiting volunteers, and no prior dog experience is required. GDA is hosting a puppy raiser orientation for interested volunteers at the Sylmar campus in their visitor education center on Sunday at 4 p.m., Colman said.
“We are so fortunate that we have these wonderful volunteers who are willing to do this,” she said.
The organization is also hosting its annual motorcycle fundraiser Ride for Guides on May 20, where the route will go through Santa Clarita.