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  MEMBER VOLUNTEERS WITH GUIDE DOGS FOR THE BLIND
 
By: Leighton James, Texas FFA News Staff
December 15, 2014

 
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Texas FFA member, Chyann Norwood, is living to serve by training guide dogs for the blind as her supervised agricultural experience.

“My one goal with training guide dogs is to make someone else’s life easier,” said Norwood, a sophomore member of the A&M Consolidated FFA chapter. “I wanted to do this program to help someone.”

Norwood was introduced to the guide dog program at the 86th Texas FFA Convention this summer in Fort Worth, TX.

“As I was walking around at state convention, I saw the booth for the guide dogs,” said Norwood. “I fell in love with the dogs there, and I knew I wanted to do it.”

Norwood then contacted “Guide Dogs for the Blind,” an organization for puppy trainers and other volunteers who serve the visually impaired. 

Later that summer, after meetings, paperwork and trainings, Norwood was given Forli, an 8-week-old black Labrador Retriever.
Forli is a 15 to 18-month commitment for Norwood. During their time together, Norwood teaches Forli training basics, such as how to sit, wait, be calm while someone is petting her, walk up and down stairs and even go to the restroom on command. All training is done through positive reinforcement.



“Patience is a challenge,” said Norwood. “She’s a puppy and still learning. It’s hard, especially when she’s learned something and just doesn’t want to do it. She’s stubborn.”

In addition to being together at all times and completing monthly reports to document her progress, Norwood and Forli also go to monthly meetings and meet the other guide dogs in the College Station area. There, guide dog trainers have the opportunity to work with other trainers’ puppies. The team environment makes training a puppy different than other traditional SAE projects.

 “Raising a guide puppy is more of a team effort,” Norwood said. “I’m not the only one raising her. We pass dogs around and help train other dogs.”



After Forli graduates from Norwood’s basic training, she will be trained to do more advanced tasks, such as how to cross the street when there is no oncoming traffic or to not obey a dangerous command. Norwood’s puppy training will not end with Forli, as she said she’s hoping to continue puppy training throughout her high school career.

“When the puppy is ready to go on to the next round of training, puppy trainers normally get a new puppy within a week,” said Norwood. “We start over as soon as one puppy moves on.”

Norwood said this quick turnaround helps “cushion the blow” of having to let one puppy go. She hopes to attend Texas A&M University, eventually apply to veterinary school and continue to raise guide puppies as a hobby. This experience not only allows her to help someone in need, but allows her to prepare for a career as a large animal vet.
 
 
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