Meet Brenna and her puppy raiser Joyce Soderberg. Fourteen years ago Joyce and her family got involved with Leader Dogs for the Blind, a not for profit organization dedicated to enhancing the lives of blind and visually impaired individuals.
"We get the puppies at seven weeks old and raise them until they're 12 months old. We take them everywhere we go, so you always should add on an hour of time because the public will ask questions about the dog," says Soderberg.
For the first year of Brenna's life, Joyce has the privilege of showering Brenna with love and attention, but Joyce's biggest responsibility is socializing the future leader dog.
"We take them grocery shopping, as much exposure as possible, take them to crowded places. They learn that when they go into restaurants, they go under the table and lay down and sleep. We take them to church, they lay quietly at church, to be seen and not heard," says Soderberg.
When Brenna is a year old, she'll head to the leader dog school in Michigan where she'll be formally trained for four months. Brenna will then be matched with a visually or hearing impaired individual.
"People always ask me if it's hard to give them up, but then you have to remember that there's a blind person waiting for their freedom. I do one every year, so we start all over," says Soderberg.
Joyce is the puppy counselor for the stateline area. Currently she has 12 families raising puppies and 20 people on a waiting list, but the organization is always looking for volunteers and donations to continue bringing the gift of freedom and possibility to thousands.
To learn more about any of the leader dogs for the blind programs, call 888-777-5332. You can also visit their Web site at www.leaderdog.org.