Rutgers Seeing-Eye Puppy Raising Club Begins Another Busy Year

by Mike Montemarano

New Brunswick, NJ- On Sunday, September 13, The Rutgers Seeing Eye Puppy Raising Club visited a rest stop at the Gran Frondo in Morristown NJ, a 107-mile bike tour considered to be one of the top 3 Gran Frondo events in the country.

A pack of German shepherd and Labrador puppies, along with their raisers, helped to provide moral support for hundreds of exasperated bikers before they continued on in their challenging feat.

During the first weeks of the Fall semester, the Seeing-Eye Puppy Raising Club, or RUSEPRC, has been hard to miss. Hundreds of students have gotten to meet many members and pups alike; at the Involvement Fair, events that the club hosts independently, such as Meet the Pups as well as during various visits to on-campus dorms and apartments.

RUSEPRC is a student-run division of The Seeing Eye, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to raising service dogs who eventually go on to assist individuals who are blind and visually-impaired.

In a president’s message, RUSEPRC president Billie Kurek said, “Our puppies are adorable and a privilege to have with us, but the job they will eventually go on to do is the humbling end goal that we all strive to help them achieve.”

The club consists of students who can be general members, take the required training to become sitters, or become full-time raisers.

Megan Dent, a Psychology Major, had a lot to say about her experience as a sitter in the club.

“My favorite trip so far was when I brought Hunter, a 10-month-old yellow lab at the time, to New York City! We took the train and subway to the Intrepid museum. We got to expose the dogs to public transportation, crowded city streets, and to displays and people around the museum. While these big exposure trips are super fun, it is also very serious business for the dogs because it can be a huge milestone in their puppy raising program. It was Hunter’s first trip to the city!”

She went on to talk about experiences she had educating elementary school and preschool children about Seeing Eye dogs.

“Our club is really big on educating younger children about service dogs. We taught them how to approach a working team by asking to pet the dog first, and we let them pet the dogs afterwards.”

Raisers and sitters often choose to live on-campus in the apartments designated by Rutgers to allow future service dogs, and these dogs in training are allowed in classes, on buses, and in most campus buildings. Whenever raisers need someone to watch their dog, there are plenty of sitters in the club whom they can rely on.

When puppies are not in training, they can often be found playing off-leash in an area known as the Barkyard on Cook campus.

After several months of training with RUSEPRC, a dog “graduates” and goes on to train further with The Seeing Eye, which is a bittersweet moment for raisers.

Having spent around 15 months in training at Rutgers, the dogs must part ways with their raisers, and will eventually spend the rest of their lives helping someone in need.

Though they have moved up to the next level of formal training, the club receives occasional updates on how older pups are doing and whose lives they end up completely changing through their service.