New guide dog puppies arrive at High School
By Savannah Butcher, Social Media Editor
Vashon High School has a long history with the program Guide Dogs for the Blind, raising 146 dogs since 1942. On October 18, two new puppies joined the local chapter of the program: Jesop and Joel.
The two puppies were born to Dina, a previous VHS guide dog graduate. This makes them third generation VHS guide dogs.
Char Philips, VHS’s head of the Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDFB), raised the grandfather of the puppies, Farmer. Phillips started working with and raising guide dogs when she was 13.
When Phillips started the program she was working at McMurray. Her sixth grade son wanted to raise a guide dog and this inspired her to create a GDFB club on the island.
The puppies’ raisers — Lora Reid and Mecky Chappelka — drove down to San Rafel, California in mid October to get the two new recruits and have been raising them since. They both helped to raise the puppies’ mother when she was at VHS.
The puppies are both Labradors, the most common breed that the GDFB uses.
“Over the years they found that the Labrador is the most successful,” Phillips said. “They had a lot of German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers, [but] now Guide Dogs for the Blind only uses labradors and goldens — and crosses.”
Labradors have a reputation as playful and friendly puppies, too, and Reid is enjoying her time with Joel.
“Joel has been fun to have so far, he has a spunk about him,” Reid said.
Reid has been housing Joel since mid-October, continuing his critical puppy training at home.
“This little guy is smart and driven,” Reid said. “[He’s] also a lot like his mother — Dina — who I also helped raise.”
Reid has raised 16 puppies for GDFB so far and hopes to continue the practice in the future.
“Raising a puppy is 24/7 feeding, relieving, playing, and training,” Reid said. “It’s a lot of responsibility, but the return is just as good when you see the puppy you have trained wearing a harness, working and loving what they do. [Then] it’s all worth it.”
The official GDFB puppy training has updated slightly over the years.
“Guide Dogs has changed their training over the years and are doing more early puppy training, so as soon as they’re weaned from their mothers they’re doing a lot of body handling and leash work,” Phillips said. “They put their jackets on, [and] immediately they start potty training them even when they’re with their mother.”
While the training has changed over the years, the puppy etiquette has not.
“[Students] should ignore [the puppies],” Phillips said. “That’s so that the dog can remained focused on the person that is handling them. If they wanted to pet them, they should ask the handler. The handler may say yes or no depending on the training of the puppy. If the puppy’s too excited they’re gonna say no.”