Canine Visitors at Braille Camp

by Julie LeMay

Julie LeMaySuch joyful commotion arose as the guide dogs in training began arriving almost simultaneously with the children on the first day of camp. Imagine nineteen dogs of different ages, sizes, and personalities interacting with a dozen children of different ages, sizes, and personalities! Such a delightful mix was something to behold!

After the children had assembled in the play area behind the school, the dogs were marched out to meet and greet them. They paraded around in a circle, stopping by each child’s chair to be introduced and get acquainted.

Maybe “adorable” isn’t the proper word for a standard size dog, especially a male, but I cannot help myself! Each one of these dogs is unique in its own way. The breeds were Yellow Labs, Black Labs, and one Black Lab/Golden Retriever mix with names like Reed, Voltaire, Lailani, Flame, Jedi, Rowan, and Butch! Just to name a few.

Chloe Walking Dog
Walking with a dog at camp

The children’s reactions were mixed; the girls in particular seemed to take quite a fancy to them and spent much time petting and receiving many wet kisses in return. The boys seemed to be a bit more cautious in their approach, but just as taken in by the dogs.

After the initial petting, those who wished could take a leash along with the trainer, and walk the dog around a small course set up for that purpose; there was also the opportunity to practice some obedience lessons, such as calling the dog to come to them. The girls were particularly delighted with their proficiency.

Play time was followed by a bit of grooming. Chew bones and pull toys were brought out, and the children could engage in an activity enjoyed by both dog and child. Combing or brushing is always a calming time for both brusher and brushee.

It was interesting to watch how the dogs interacted. There was lots of sniffing and awareness of each other, but all were on their best behavior and no tussles ensued.

Guide Dog Training Facts

  • The puppies are born on “campuses” located in several states.
  • When they reach 8-9 weeks old, they are taken to volunteer puppy raisers, who train them in basic obedience and good manners, including socialization.
  • After 14-18 months, the dogs are returned to the campuses for formal training.

The Guide Dogs for the Blind website is guidedogs.com.

Julie LeMay is a Louis Braille School volunteer