LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico State University received a special delivery on Saturday of puppies. A group of students will train them to become certified guide dogs for the blind.
Five Labrador retriever puppies landed at the Las Cruces Airport Saturday, set to become much more than just cute four-legged friends, but true life-changers. “These dogs give independence to visually-impaired individuals, they give them inclusion, they give them safety, and allow them to live an independent existence and life because of the dogs that they have,” said Sandi Alsworth, with Guide Dogs for the Blind.
The puppies are eight weeks old and were flown from California-based non-profit Guide Dogs for the Blind. It prepares dogs to serve people in the U.S. and Canada who are blind or who have low vision. But before the puppies are allowed to train, they will be with the “NMSU Community Puppy Raisers.” The student-run club partners with the non-profit to help them raise the puppies for up to 17 months before the dogs are sent back to the California non-profit to start their official guide dog training.
“They’ll be staying in their raiser homes, they’ll be socialized, they’ll be going to classes with them, they’ll be going to groceries and restaurants and as many places as possible as they can take them,” said Alsworth.
Since the NMSU club started and partnered with the non-profit back in 2016, the club has raised eight puppies with four of them graduating to become certified guide dogs. Which makes the long process ahead all worth it for the NMSU students. “Raise a puppy, change a life, but the lives that usually get changed are the ones of us that raise them and that are involved in this process,” said Alsworth.
Organizers said the official guide dog training typically takes about eight weeks before they’re assigned to the people they’ll serve.