After a winter break away from campus, Beloiters will probably be bounding through the halls of the Science Center with renewed enthusiasm. At least one of them won’t be human.
That’s Apple, a guide-dog-in-training. The ten-week-old black Labrador retriever is currently being raised by Assistant Professor of Psychology Kristin Bonnie through the OccuPaws Guide Dog Association. Bonnie found out about the organization while training her other dog, a Lab/shepherd mix, and decided to give raising a puppy a try.
Puppy-raising volunteers are asked to socialize the puppies, expose them to a variety of public situations like restaurants and concerts, and teach them basic commands—sit, stay, down—and observe their personalities. A guide dog, Bonnie says, needs to be confident and willing to work.
“The goal right now is to keep it really short and positive,” says Bonnie, who has had Apple in her care for about a week. “The hope is that this spring she’ll be on campus every day, coming to class.”
So far, the pup has received a warm reception on campus. “Everyone’s been really excited and supportive of this whole endeavor,” Bonnie says. “My colleagues in psychology have been great.”
If all goes as planned and Apple is accepted for further training as a guide dog, Bonnie will have to give her up within a year-and-a-half.
“Giving her up will definitely be hard,” she admits. “But I’ll be giving her to a person whose life is going to change because of her.”