In San Rafael, California, Subaru owner Bob Fricke and nearly 1,400 other volunteers raise puppies for the nonprofit Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB). Thousands of blind and visually impaired people rely on guide dogs for greater independence and mobility.
As a puppy raiser, Fricke socializes his assigned puppy and teaches basic obedience skills in preparation for formal guide dog training.
Puppy training begins at eight weeks old. Fricke's canine charges accompany him everywhere -- malls, grocery stores, schools, elevators, restaurants, parades, busses, trains, automobiles, and more.
Fendi, a yellow Labrador retriever and Fricke's fifth GDB puppy, took a special liking to Fricke's 2004 Subaru Outback. "I had to submit medical and activity reports with her, including a paper on Fun Things My Puppy Likes to Do," Fricke said. "Number one on the list was she liked to ride in the back of my Subaru, where she had her own little apartment equipped with a bed, water dish, and Nylabone® toys."
Fricke's wife, Joan, also gets involved. "She helps me with the puppies, but tends to spoil them like grandchildren -- so I have to discipline her and the puppy," Fricke said.
When the pups are between 14 and 18 months old, GDB headquarters recalls them for formal training. While the turn-in process can be heart wrenching, a new bundle of fur soon fills the void, usually within hours. "That way there is little time to feel bad, because you keep very busy with the new one," Fricke said.
Puppy raisers know their dogs will have a profound impact on the lives of others. The dogs not only help future companions travel safely and with confidence, but also provide devotion, friendship, and love.
For Fricke, raising puppies is a labor of love.
Learn more about GDB at www.guidedogs.com.