Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Guiding Eyes For The Blind New Puppy Love Program

Atlantic Shores Guide Dog Puppies Make an Impact in the Classroom

"Puppy Love Program" pairs puppies, seniors, and grade school students

Mealtime, training class, "Yappy Hour," and a field trip to a local grade school. Not a normal day for most puppies, unless their names are Joanie and Godrick. These two black lab puppies are the stars of the Atlantic Shores/Guiding Eyes For The Blind "Puppy Love Program," one of the first in the nation to link seniors and young students together in a partnership that will provide guide dogs for visually impaired individuals, while educating a new generation on the value of these amazing animals.

The unique program was designed and came to life at Atlantic Shores, an energetic 100-acre retirement community in Virginia Beach, Virginia, in partnership with Guiding Eyes For The Blind (GEB), a nonprofit guide dog school with a 50-year legacy of providing the blind and visually impaired with superior Guiding Eyes dogs and lifetime support services, for free. This inspiring organization relies on volunteers for the critical first step of basic obedience training and socialization for their puppies.

Joanie and Godrick were specially matched with Atlantic Shores residents and staff, who have opened their homes and hearts to raise them during a critical time in their lives. After months of training and love, the puppies will be returned to Guiding Eyes for "finishing training," to teach them specific skills that will make them the perfect companion for a deserving individual. The $45,000 value of each fully trained guide dog is entirely underwritten for each GEB graduate who receives a dog from the program.

Key to The "Puppy Love Program" are partnerships with two Virginia Beach elementary schools -- Ocean Lakes, and Corporate Landing, which will benefit both the puppies and the students. The puppies and their Atlantic Shores raisers will make ongoing visits to the schools as part of the puppy's social skills training, where Joanie and Godrick will learn to experience new people in new environments.

Special curriculum at Ocean Lakes will help third grade students understand the invaluable service these puppies will eventually provide, and how to properly interact with guide dogs they see in the community. Students will also follow the puppies' progress with "puppy cam" updates and student reporter segments broadcast on the schools' in-classroom TV feed. Special needs, and visually impaired students at Corporate Landing will have an opportunity to touch and interact with the puppies as a therapeutic activity.

The first major "socialization field trip" for the puppies at their partner schools will take place on January 10. Guiding Eyes graduate Brian McCann will give students a Q&A demonstration of how his guide dog, Julie, assists him.

Students first began bonding with the puppies by attending their special Welcoming Ceremony on October 27, 2011, where they recited a poem to Joanie and Godrick, and created personalized works of art in their honor, which hang in a special gallery at Atlantic Shores.

According to Lisa Scott, third grade teacher at Ocean Lakes, "The students in my class, and the entire school, have fallen 'head over paws' for Joanie and Godrick. We're excited and honored to be a part of their learning journey, as we ourselves learn about the unique process it takes to transform these puppies into invaluable life partners."

Back at Atlantic Shores, the puppies have more lessons to learn at the dog-friendly senior campus, attending such resident activities as Arts & Crafts, and unique events like "Yappy Hours" with special treats for both human and canine residents. The puppies are also brightening spirits with resident visits at the community's Harbourway assisted living facility, and Seaside skilled nursing center.

According to Atlantic Shores Executive Director Eden Jones, "Just as these puppies are bringing joy to our community, we are thrilled to have our residents share this experience with the next generation, as part of our ongoing outreach to local schoolchildren."

"Puppy Love fans" from around the world can follow the progress of these tiny heroes by logging on to www.atlanticshoresliving.com/puppy_love, where a photo gallery, Dog-Blog and Puppy-Cam track the puppies' adventures. Fans can also like them on Facebook at: http://tinyurl.com/682m944

SOURCE Atlantic Shores


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