At Midwest Eye Consultants, we believe it’s important to do all we can to help the blind and visually impaired. That’s why we have supported Leader Dogs for the Blind since 2017. Leader Dogs for the Blind believes that everyone deserves a life of independence and mobility. All of their services are provided free of charge to clients and make a huge impact on quality of life.
Our own Dr. Lindsay Culver has been a champion for the cause and has dedicated so much time and energy to ensuring its success. Dr. Culver is what the organization refers to as a “puppy raiser.” Puppy raisers are the backbone of the guide dog program. They give 12 to 15 months of their time, energy and love to raise a puppy for Leader Dogs. Through daily care and training, puppy raisers build the foundation our puppies need to become a trusted guide dog for someone who is blind.
Most recently, she’s been matched with a dog Izzy and is now a bit of a seasoned pro. In retrospect, she says she’s learned to trust her instincts and her dynamic with the dog.
“I learned to use the training manual as a guide instead of hard and fast rules all the time,” she says. “Some training techniques work better with different personalities.”
And Dr. Culver’s approach seems to be working well. In her words, “Izzy has been easier to train because we’ve done it before. I’m also more comfortable taking her places and people have gotten used to us having her.”
Still, sometimes the dog commands attention in a good way. Dr. Culver does her best to educate while putting people at ease.
“People love dogs and do have a lot of questions,” she explains. “In general, they are very respectful and ask permission before approaching her. The most common question, “is what kind of service dog is she?”
It also doesn’t hurt that Dr. Culver has made the most of the Leader Dog community. She gets together once a month with other puppy raisers. The counselor organizes these outings at various public places. Last month they met at Glenbrook Square. They’ve also been to restaurants, on a pontoon on the three rivers, a boat show, Sweetwater Sound’s campus, etc. Their next big milestone will be when Izzy returns for formal training in March.
That’s not the full extent of Izzy’s adventures, however. As Dr. Culver explains, “Izzy went to Florida with us for Fall break. She did great on the long
car ride down. She also did well staying in new places and stopping in different gas stations and restaurants. She loved the beach!”
Raising Izzy has turned into a family affair, and that’s a good thing, if you ask Dr. Culver! Everyone in her house is invested in her success to some extent. For instance, her daughters make sure Izzy has good manners and doesn’t do something she shouldn’t. They also helped with walks.
When asked to summarize her experience being a puppy raiser, Dr. Culver offers a candid response: “The easiest part is falling in love with the adorable puppy as soon as you pick it up,” she says. “The hardest part is potty training.”
As for Izzy, Dr. Culver is hoping that she finds her forever home soon as a guide dog.