Sign In

service dog training

April 13, 2020

Eric Caron, a retired guidance counselor who has been blind since birth, recently moved to a new home. He noticed his guide dog, a yellow Labrador retriever named Ryan, had trouble leading him across a busy intersection he must cross regularly. Caron knew what that meant: It was time to retire Ryan, a near-senior citizen at 9 years old, to pet status and get a new guide dog.

But as the novel coronavirus spread, Caron’s “dog day” appointment on April 2, at the New York-based Guiding Eyes for the Blind, was postponed indefinitely.

“I had packed my bags a good month before the class date, including some special toys for the new dog,” said Caron, of Brattleboro, Vt. “I had a new pair of shoes for walking and a special shirt for graduation. I was ready. And now, you just have to take that bag and roll it in the closet.”

Like many people with disabilities, Caron relies on a service dog to help him navigate not just the world, but also his home and property. The dogs are trained to do specific tasks such as guiding people in public, opening doors and interrupting anxiety attacks. That training can last up to two years, and it is now on hold nationwide as the coronavirus crisis continues.

The handoff of already-trained service dogs to people like Caron also is paused, because it has to be done in person and with instructors and clients standing close together. That means people whose dogs are ready to retire, as well as people who have been on waiting lists a year or longer to get their first service dogs, remain in limbo.

“We’re under orders, depending on what state you live in, not to do activities that are not deemed as essential. Because this is considered education, it’s not deemed essential,” said Ben Cawley, director of training at Guiding Eyes for the Blind. “A guide dog-user would argue that it is essential, but we can’t be putting our staff or volunteers or applicants in an irresponsible situation.”

Register Your Dog

  • Most Recent News

    Students Get Therapy Dog

    When middle school students return to class on Jan. 11, they’ll find a new face at the door: Daisy. Daisy is a therapy dog and the personal pet of Rob Kreger, principal of the Rock L. Butler Middle School. The five-year-old golden retriever is not a school pet or mascot, but rather a working dog […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dogtor

    Last March, Caroline Benzel, a third-year medical student, began to notice the stress and discomfort her nurse friends were feeling from the pressures of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. “[Personal protective equipment] can be really rough on the skin,” Benzel, 31, tells PEOPLE. Benzel and her 3-year-old Rottweiler, Loki (who’s also a therapy dog) hatched a […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dog Pups

    When Stanley the miniature fox terrier’s owner passed away, the little dog started a ‘paw-some’ new role – bringing puppy love to some of the Gold Coast’s oldest residents. After Carinity Cedarbrook Diversional Therapist Julianne Staff adopted Stanley, he began visiting the aged care community at Mudgeeraba as a therapy dog. Therapy dogs help to […]

    Read more

    Puppy Cams

    A nonprofit is providing an unusual form of therapy for those on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic – puppy cams! “You spend five minutes with a puppy and try not to smile,” said registered nurse Robin Lingg Lagrone. Lingg Lagrone says watching little furballs wag their tails and prance on their paws helps […]

    Read more

    Pet Committee

    When Moore County’s school doors were abruptly closed earlier in 2020, two- and four-legged volunteers from the Moore County Citizens’ Pet Responsibility Committee (PRC) were in their 12th year of presenting a six-session Pet Responsibility Education Program for fourth-graders. The PRC quickly shifted gears and placed its program materials online as part of a home […]

    Read more

    The Right Rescue Dog

    If your New Year’s resolution is to add a canine family member, good for you. Somewhere out there is the perfect puppy or adult dog for your family. You have a lot of things to think about when you begin to look for that new family member, puppy or dog? Large or small? Purebred or […]

    Read more