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  MEMBERS VOLUNTEER WITH GUIDE DOGS FOR THE BLIND
 
By: Shannon O'Quinn, Texas FFA Staff
March 15, 2017

 
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Members of the James Madison FFA Chapter are living to serve through their atypical supervised agricultural experiences. These members have embraced the opportunity to take part in raising and training service dogs for the visually impaired.
            
Starting in 2015, James Madison FFA took on the new idea of a Guide Dog SAE with the help of Guide Dogs for the Blind, a non-profit organization that provides the dogs for training. Over a period of 15 months, a student fills the roll of a “puppy raiser.”  This is a big commitment in which the student will raise the puppy around their daily routine as they prepare to become guide dogs. Puppy raisers are responsible for teaching basic commands, obedience, and oversee potty-training routines.  The student will also introduce the puppy to social settings that a visually impaired person might encounter in his/her daily life, such as outings to school, the mall, busy streets, parks, etc.   



Between the age of 13-15 months old, the dog is flown to San Rafael, California where it will receive the formal guidework training.  When the dog graduates as a guide, the raisers are invited to attend a graduation ceremony in California to formally present the dog to a visually impaired individual for their lifetime partnership.



In 2016 while attending the State FFA Convention, James Madison Guide Dog President, Kaitlyn Hunt bonded with Lubbock-Cooper FFA member, Faith Snapp, who is visually impaired and just applied to receive a guide dog. In December, Faith found out she would be receiving a guide dog named Prim, but due to livestock shows commitments, could not attend the graduation ceremony in California.

“Kaitlyn and the rest of the 17 members of the James Madison FFA Guide Dog program wanted to throw Faith and Prim a graduation ceremony since Faith was unable to attend,” said James Madison Advisor, Janell McMullan. “From a leader stand point it was also an opportunity I could not pass up to teach my students what the ‘full’ picture looks like.”



Through the help of multiple Lubbock guide dog organizations and the Lubbock area Ronald McDonald House, the James Madison FFA Chapter was able to organize a surprise graduation ceremony for Faith and Prim. After discovering a fellow FFA member from Utah was the one who raised Prim, she was flown in to present Faith with her new guide dog. 

“I told my students the last line of the FFA motto states, living to serve,” said McMullan. “I think this encapsulates everything that FFA is and everything the Guide Dogs for the Blind stands for.”
 
 
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