Project 2 Heal is proud to announce that we've recently begun a partnership with Metrolina Association for the Blind! This exciting new collaboration will allow our training team to socialize future service dogs with blind and visually impaired children enrolled in the Student Enrichment Experience after school program (S.E.E.). In tandem with Metrolina Association for the Blind, this program is run by IFB Solutions, a nonprofit corporation providing employment, training, and service for people who are blind or visually impaired.
While our future service dogs certainly benefit from the arrangement (socialization with children and training in a public setting), Project 2 Heal is incredibly excited about the benefits we're able to provide to these children. We recently spoke with India Lamboy, Occupational Therapist with Metrolina Association for the Blind to learn more about the impact our puppies make in the S.E.E. after school program.
"It's the Most Amazing Thing!"
During our visit last week, our puppies were a major hit among the kids. The children were very excited, and as India described the visit, "It was a big morale booster... having the puppies visit was awesome!" S.E.E. brings in different groups and activities from the community to help kids develop social skills and general life abilities. India hopes that Project 2 Heal's involvement will provide these children a great opportunity to learn very important dog-handling skills.
"Many of our kids may grow up to have seeing-eye dogs, so one of the things I'd like to see in the future is some real-life dog skills. I'd really like to show them what it's like to have a puppy or walk a puppy... for them to find out if a dog will pull on a leash."
For many people, some of the most essential aspects of dog ownership are taken for granted.
Knowing when a dog needs to be fed.
Knowing when a dog needs to go outside.
Once outside, being able to tell if a dog went #1 or #2.
Each of these aspects of owning a dog typically relies on sight. But for seeing-eye dog owners (and future owners), there need to be other means of navigation. India says it's important for these children to gain experience now, because some have no experience with dogs and are even rather timid among the animals.
(Also, in case you were wondering—seeing-eye dog owners will often feel the arch of their dog's back in order to determine if there is anything to pick up after a visit outdoors.)
Overcoming the Unexpected.
Like a few of the children enrolled with S.E.E., many blind or visually impaired children are cautious of unexpected things. When it comes to puppy visits, this may manifest in being hesitant toward the possibility of barking, biting, or licking. Perhaps one of the most moving parts of the visit was watching a child overcome his hesitation toward our puppies by touching the paw of our puppy Gus.
"Maybe next time he can touch Gus' tail," India said. "Over time he may become more familiar and confident."
Our puppies also provided a new sensory experience for many of these kids. (Like a puppy tail to the face!) These visits will give children with visual impairment a chance to experience things they can't see, like the feel of a puppy's paw or fur, sound of a bark, or even smell of puppy breath!
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Supporting Our Mission During Giving Tuesday:
For the past two years, we've celebrated the giving season with an incredible marathon of puppy videos known as Pup-a-Thon. This year, we're counting down our all-time greatest videos captured since our founding, each day for two weeks leading up to #GivingTuesday! Pup-a-thon 2022 kicked off on November 15th, but our all-time greatest video will be announced on Giving Tuesday, November 29th!
This year, we're working toward fundraising goals in three major categories: Puppy Operations, Facility Maintenance, and our World-Class Labrador Breeding Program. Each of these areas of funding are imperative to our success as the only organization in the United States committed to breeding, nurturing, and training Labrador Retriever puppies, for the purpose of donation to service dog partner organizations nationwide.