A new option presents itself

Published 9:18 pm Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Looking for the ideal dog to join the family can be a grueling and exhausting process, and it’s something I’ve had on my plate for about a year now.

My husband and I started looking about a year ago, thinking the perfect dog would find us quickly.

We checked local shelters all over the Hampton Roads area, and we even took a day trip to Richmond to meet some pooches there.

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So far, we’ve had no luck.

However, last week, I met a woman who introduced me to another option. Last Tuesday, I interviewed Kristin Martin who lives in North Suffolk and is raising a yellow Labrador named Garvey to become a guide dog for Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

My first thought after hearing her experience was how difficult it must be for her to raise a puppy for 18 months only to say goodbye, but when I asked her about it, her answer not only surprised me — it inspired me.

Kristin said when Garvey leaves for his official guide dog training in New York, she and her family feel it is as if he’s going off to college to start his career.

It was the first time I had ever heard someone explain it that way. And I realized this might be a good way for me to solve my own doggie dilemma.

Through Guiding Eyes for the Blind, we could add a canine friend to our home while giving back to the community in the process.

Guiding Eyes for the Blind has puppy raiser regions up and down the East Coast, from Maine to North Carolina. In fact, one of the regional teams is located in Virginia Beach.

One of the things Kristin said really made it seem like there was nothing to lose — Guiding Eyes for the Blind pays for all of the puppy’s expenses except their food. With all the vet bills and PetSmart visits, I can imagine that saves a lot of money.

But to me, the best thing about the program is that you know these puppies grow into dogs that will do bigger and better things to help the community.

Even if a dog doesn’t become a guide dog, it can be a part of Heeling Autism, assisting with children with autism who have tendencies to run away, or go on to work with the police.

I’m still not sure if I will be able to handle saying goodbye after 18 months of petting, feeding and loving a dog, but I know it would be easier to do knowing I would be sending him to learn how to provide assistance and offer mobility to the visually impaired.

It’s something I am seriously considering, and I hope if I do go through with it, I will be able to inspire others the way Kristin Martin inspired me.

For more information on Guiding Eyes for the Blind, visit guidingeyes.org or call 1-866-GEB-LABS.