At one high school in Chino, some students act as “teachers”… for puppies.
Students at Don Lugo High School are able to raise and train guide dogs for the blind. The program started in 2014 with two dogs. Since then, teenagers have raised and trained 19 dogs.
“These dogs are with them 24/7, so they go home with them, they go to school with them, they go to public places with them,” says Kimberly Cabrera, the principal of the school.
The students are raising 10 dogs this year.
Principal Cabrera started the program after she and her daughter got involved with Guide Dogs for the Blind several years ago. Her daughter was inspired based on her own family connection.
“My great uncle is legally blind, so seeing the work his dog does for him, it made me want to help,” Cabrera’s daughter, Brianna, reflected.
Now, Cabrera’s high school has a partnership with the organization. Through this relationship, the students learn responsibility while helping to provide independence for blind people.
One student, Shaiyanne Leeming, says she transferred to the high school specifically for the program. She’s able to raise the puppies at home, bring them to school every day, and teach them basic commands.
“Once you get into it, you realize wow, this dog can do so much so then you really commit yourself to it,” she said.
Trainers like Leeming raise the puppies for up to 15-20 months. When they graduate, goodbyes can be difficult.
“I stayed there hugging him for a long time just crying,” she said.
But, Principal Cabrera says the students know they’re raising dogs that can change someone else’s life.
“It’s like shipping your child off to college and watching them have that wonderful life. There are a lot of tears.”
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