By Kim Becker
Emily Newman spent eighth grade on a labor of love and hope for a stranger she may never meet. That stranger will be the constant companion of Kelley, a yellow Labrador retriever puppy that Emily trained as a companion for a visually impaired person.
Kelley stayed with the Newmans for 17 months as she learned basic house and walking manners and politely socialized in many different arenas. Emily and Kelley became a familiar sight at the grocery store, school, and library; amazing kids who couldn’t believe a dog was allowed in school. Kelley learned to follow family members everywhere, walk up the stairs carefully with people, and lay on her dog bed in Emily’s room. Emily even managed to train Kelley to stay off the furniture, a feat most adults would envy.
To augment Emily’s training skill, the pair spent 12 weeks in a special class learning the basics. Later, classes were every other week and focused on socialization and walking skills. “Kelley loves going to work in her vest and special leash,” says Emily.
The family wanted a puppy and felt that Guiding Eyes would be “a fun way to help someone.” Even so, letting Kelley go was challenging. When Emily first came home after Kelley left for training with a special instructor in New York, she said the house felt “weird” and “no one picked up the dropped ice cubes.” However, the family is excited about training another puppy and looks forward to beginning again in the spring with a new pup. Meanwhile, Kelley is enjoying her training in New York and is on track to become a companion to a visually impaired person in a few months. And Emily will be cheering Kelley on from the sidelines.