Future Leader Dog

By Shelby Stewart-Soldan
Staff Writer
Goodrich — Raising a future Leader Dog has been something that Barrie Lynn Wood has thought about since she was a little girl.
“Raising a Leader Dog puppy was something my mom brought up to me when I was a young child,” said Wood. “We never ended up raising one when I was growing up, but the organization remained important to me.”
Leader Dogs for the Blind is an organization that breeds, raises and trains guide dogs. The non-profit organization is based in Rochester, and Wood works as the puppy development coordinator. It’s through this position that she got Rone, the four-month-old Yellow Labrador puppy she is training.
“This will be my second puppy I’m raising,” she said.
Puppy raisers are volunteers that raise the future guide dogs for a year until they are old enough to undergo the training at Leader Dogs and eventually be matched with a new owner. About fifty percent of the dogs graduate and go on to be guide dogs, but others will become service dogs in other fields through a career change.
“We have people who, in order for independence, rely on a family member,” said Wood. “Just to go to the store, go to work and go to school. By giving them independence through a guide dog, I think that opens up their whole world. That’s a pretty important mission of that dog, we’re just laying those foundational skills.”
The dogs are provided with zero cost to the clients at Leader Dog, even if they need to be flown in. But, overall, it costs around $43,000 to create one future Leader Dog.
“As a puppy raiser, and an employee with leader dogs, we listen to our dogs. They choose if this is a responsibility they’re up for,” she said. “It’s pretty amazing. I did a blind folded walk and I had a guide dog. The security I felt, the level of confidence I felt, the ability to put my trust in this dog, is pretty amazing.”
Wood says that she will be taking Rone out and about in the community to stores, to church, and anywhere else she goes while she’s training him.
“If anyone has questions, I’m hoping they’ll ask them,” she said. “I would love for them to reach out, meet the puppy, and maybe if they have time, I’ll teach them what our leader dogs have to do.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.