MIDDLEFIELD, Ohio (WJW) – A plane full of pups. Admit it, when you read that sentence, it instantly brought a smile to your face.
Even though it may look like one of them is flying the plane, they’re not that smart. But given some time, they will do something even better than looking adorable in the cockpit.
They’ll give a person who is sight impaired a chance to be mobile again.
A six-month-old pup named Fenway was on Wednesday’s flight. Fenway is just beginning the journey to becoming a guide dog.
“You’re walking the dog and he sees a squirrel and you don’t want him to go ‘squirrel.’ They learn you don’t do that.” Keith Wagner said.
Now, Tabitha has those manners and more. She’s finished her guide dog training on New York City streets and is ready to go to her new owner
Guiding Eyes for the Blind has a network of volunteer trainers across the country like the Wagners who teach those basic skills.
CEO Thomas Panek says it’s a months-long process to get a dog ready to handle daily activities like navigating city streets or being in an office or in a store.
Right now, there are more that 200 people with vision impairments who are waiting for their four-legged partner. The need for trainers and for the dogs to help others has never been as critical as it is now.
“We’re all trying to social distance now and reaching out to help someone who is blind, and it may not be as comfortable as it used to be for somebody and as a person who is blind myself, reaching out and asking for help is a little less comfortable than it used to be and having a guide dog by your side, the demand has increased significantly.” Panek said.
Once done with training, the dogs are soon in the hands of a visually-impaired person, which is a tough time for the puppy raisers who love dogs so much that they are needed to help make someone else’s life a lot easier.
“I tell everyone I’m looking at it this way. We had a child, we sent that child to college, they met someone, got married and moved away and we never saw them again.” Wagner said. “It’s hard. It’s hard. We cried.”
The dogs were flown to the Geauga County Airport by the group Pilots to the Rescue.
It’s a group of pilots and plane owners who volunteer to fly animals to where they’re needed and wanted.