ONEONTA, N.Y. (NEWS10) — History is being made at SUNY Oneonta but it’s different than you might th-ink. A 4-month-old black lab puppy, Ink, is the first puppy to be raised on campus for Guiding Eyes for the Blind by junior Anthropology major Taylor Hendrickson.
Hendrickson, the president of the university’s new Guiding Eyes for the Blind club, states, “We were aiming to raise a puppy on campus this semester but didn’t realize it would happen this soon,” “He’s still getting used to a college setting, but he’s doing really well! He has been with me to meetings in Hunt Union and Starbucks and even tabled with us at Club Expo to find new club members.” Ink works with Guiding Eyes Leatherstocking Volunteer Region Coordinator Amy Blechman, who comes to campus weekly for “puppy foundations class” – “kind of like Kindergarten for puppies” – where the focus is for “Team Ink” to bond as a team and get exposure to a variety of experiences.
Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a nonprofit organization that provides guide dogs to people experiencing vision loss, works with volunteer puppy raisers who bring the puppies into their homes and teach them basic obedience and house manners, while socializing them and introducing them to everything the world has to offer. The puppies are returned at 16-18 months to Guiding Eyes and their future career path is determined. When Hendrickson walks the stage next year, Ink will also celebrating his own graduation.
Assistant Professor of Food and Nutrition and SUNYS Oneonta’s Guiding Eyes club advisor, Kelly Martin raised a puppy, “Flower,” last year. Martin and Hendrickson hope to gain more club students so they can have a great experience too. Hendrickson adds, “I’m excited this is all finally happening after lots of work behind the scenes,” “I actually just learned that my great aunt raised 21 dogs for Guiding Eyes, so I guess it’s in my bloodline, just like it’s in Ink’s. From the first time I heard about this from Dr. Martin, something about this program just stuck with me. The good they’re doing for others, providing these dogs to people at no cost, I wanted to be part of that, and I’m so honored that I get to be.”