Future Guide Dogs Take Part in Local Airport Training
BIG FLATS (WENY) -- Future seeing eye dogs got their first taste of airport security Wednesday morning, courtesy of the TSA and a local nonprofit. The goal was to familiarize the dogs with the screening process as they help prepare their handlers to fly.
Guiding Eyes for the Blind breeds and trains dogs for the blind or visually impaired. Puppies are raised by volunteers who put them through all sorts of preparations -including scenarios like airport checkpoints.
"Many people who go in there to get their dog live in various parts of the county or some times other parts of the world," says Sandy Shaw, Regional Coordinator of Puppy Raisers for Guiding Eyes. "Probably one of the first things they're going to do when they leave guiding eyes is get on a plane. So if we can say 'hey, he's already been through that,' it's just one more thing they don't have to worry about."
Wednesday's orientation prepared the dogs for formal training, which they'll begin at sixteen months.
"If anybody's flown out, you know it can be loud," says Jim Chapman, Assistant Federal Security Director of Screening for TSA. "There's a lot of things going on and it can be kind of disturbing to the dog. So when they come through and they do this process a couple of times, when they graduate with the person they're going to guide, the next time they're going to fly out, it won't be as stressful for them. And we've already seen some of those results according to the people at guiding eyes, so it's been really beneficial."
All eight dogs were brought through security, including being patted down and setting off metal detectors.
Trainers called this just one of the critical steps to prep the dogs for their full-time job.
"We went bowling last week," says Shaw, who also says the dogs are taken to a variety of places for training. "We take them to theaters [and] they go a lot of places and people go 'well why would you take them there?' blind people go anywhere. They have varying degrees of blindness and they participate in all different kinds of life. They go to the kids sports things, so they have to used to be used to that--just any part of life."