Nalani, the black Labrador retriever raised by Katherine Valicenti ’19 and Elizabeth Anderson ’19, passed her In-For-Training (IFT) test this summer at the Guiding Eyes for the Blind headquarters. Guiding Eyes, which evaluates and trains dogs to lead blind and visually impaired people, will continue working with Nalani through harness training and graduation, when she will begin her placement as a guide dog.
“The most rewarding thing about training these dogs is in fact letting them go back to the Guiding Eyes headquarters and hearing how well they perform in their IFT test,” says Valicenti, president of the HWS chapter of Guiding Eyes for the Blind. “It is the proudest dog-mom moment ever.”
When she joined Guiding Eyes for the Blind two years ago, Valicenti was interested in cultivating a community aspect of puppy training because, as she puts it, “it takes a pack to raise a pup.”
With puppy training classes organized by the larger Wayne Country Region chapter of Guiding Eyes, the HWS trainers and dogs are able to connect with other individuals who are passionate about raising guide dogs.
“Being puppy raisers at HWS has definitely given us the opportunity to work with many different dogs in the region,” says Anderson. She adds that “exposing a potential guide dog to a college campus is very beneficial to them, as it gives them lots of practice with socialization, settling through class, and walking with distractions.”
In the midst of Nalani’s success, the HWS chapter of Guiding Eyes established a theme house, where club members will continue raising puppies. They welcomed Odyssey, a three-month-old black Lab and Lacy, another lab, who recently passed her IFT.