Monday, October 09, 2006

Puppies With Purpose

Imagine bringing a puppy into your home, playing with her, training her, and loving her. Then after about a year, you have to part. Sound sad? Not in the case of Padgett, a black Labrador retriever entrusted to Toni Viola, 12, of New Milford, Conn., who is training her as a guide dog for people who are blind. Padgett is Toni's second puppy from Guiding Eyes for the Blind. "The person who has Metro, my first puppy, really needed him," says Toni. "It was very tough to say good-bye … but I knew I was doing it for a good cause." Toni has wanted to be a veterinarian since she was in prekindergarten, so raising puppies for their own careers as guide dogs has been a good experience for her.

At the end of her time with Toni, Padgett will take a test to determine whether she has what it takes for guide dog work. Dogs that fail the test still have a bright future. They may go into other programs, such as law enforcement, or be adopted.

Padgett was 8 weeks old when she began living and working with Toni. Twice a month, they go to a group training class. "We work on improving technique and problem solving. I also learn from the other puppies in the class," says Toni.

On the day CW spoke with Toni, she had taken Padgett on a shopping trip.

"I'm so proud of Padgett," Toni told CW. "She stood at my side like she's supposed to. She wore the blue vest that says Puppy in Pre-Training, which allows us to enter places that don't usually allow dogs. The more exposure, the better. That's how they become guide dogs." Spoken like a true dog expert--and a future veterinarian.

For more information about raising puppies to be guide dogs, please visit or

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