The current Caring Eyes Seeing Eye Puppy Club has been in existence for more than 30 years and was originally known as the "North Bergen 4-H Seeing Eye Puppy Club". The Club was started to meet the growing needs of puppy raisers in the Bergen County area. At the outset, there were few puppies making up the club population. Over the years, while fluctuating with both the number of available puppies and the number of volunteer puppy raisers, the club grew, and, at times, had more than 30 puppies.
The Club originally met once a month, except in the summer months of July and August when meetings were suspended. Its purpose was, and is, to socialize and train the puppies in the basic commands of "forward," "rest," "about," "down," and "come". When the puppy population increased, the club began to meet twice a month year round which is the meeting schedule that continues to this day.
At the outset, the Club met at a 4-H facility in Paramus, New Jersey, moving to Immaculate Heart Academy in the mid-1990's, and then to the Woodcliff Middle School in 2009. In 2015 the meeting site was relocated to the Tice Community Center in the Tice Corners Shopping Mall in Woodcliff Lake. In 2017, the meetings took place at Immaculate Heart Academy and the Wyckoff Firehouse (Community Engine Company #2). Starting in 2018, meetings were scheduled to take place in Eisenhower Middle School in Wyckoff, NJ and have continued into 2019. In the cooler months and rainy days we head inside the school, but in the warmer months we, as a club, decided it would be nice for outdoor meetings in the school parking lot. In 2009 the club members voted in favor of severing the long term relationship the Club had with 4-H, choosing to become an independent body. Additionally, the Club took on a more democratic form of leadership. Officers are now elected to work in conjunction with the Club Leader to further the development of programs and policies aimed at enhancing the puppy raising experience and better serving the needs of the puppies. It was then that the name of the club was formally changed to the Caring Eyes Seeing Eye Puppy Club.
The Club has had three "Leaders" over the course of its' history. Karen Gambert and her daughter JoAnn were co-leaders into the 1990's, passing the leadership torch to Claudia Tirello. She recently retired as our club leader in 2018 where our current leader was named as a fellow puppy raiser, Carol Krajewski, who is currently on her 22nd puppy! Carol remains the Club's Leader, overseeing the puppy training aspects and acting as a liaison between the Club and the Puppy Development Department at The Seeing Eye in Morristown, New Jersey.
The mission of The Seeing Eye is "to enhance the independence, dignity, and self-confidence of blind people through the use of Seeing Eye dogs." As a Club, it is our mission to support that of The Seeing Eye and to educate, train and guide our puppies while providing a warm, loving family environment in which the pups can thrive. The volunteer puppy raisers dedicate themselves to doing everything necessary with the puppies entrusted to their care. Through the Club and the efforts of the raisers, the puppies are exposed to a multitude of real life situations, taught basic obedience commands, and rewarded with love, affection and praise for a "job well done", so as to prepare them for their formal training at The Seeing Eye. Camaraderie and friendships form as we strive to meet our goal of raising a pup that becomes a guide, fulfilling his/her destiny by providing independence, mobility and dignity to a sight impaired individual.
When Seeing Eye puppies reach the age of 7 or 8 weeks, they are delivered to the homes of volunteer "foster families" who nurture and care for their charges until they are about 16 to 18 moths old. Families in New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New York, give the dogs abundant affection, teach them basic obedience, and expose them to a variety of social situations they will later encounter as working dogs. Many of these volunteer families have children, while a number of retired adults also volunteer their time for our puppies.
When it is time for the puppy to begin formal training, the dog returns to The Seeing Eye to learn to assist a blind person in leading a more independent fulfilling life. Be a part of the magic of The Seeing Eye: volunteer to raise a puppy with a special destiny!
For more information about becoming a puppy raiser, consult the list found on the puppy raiser link and call The Seeing Eye Area Coordinator for your county. You will be invited to a puppy club meeting in your county where you can learn about the program first hand. For more information, email the Puppy Placement Department at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to help support our mission, please visit The Seeing Eye website.