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Meet Lindsay, The Guide Puppy Training With Penn State Men’s Soccer

In the past month or so, you may have seen a cute little black lab in a yellow vest walking around campus or attending a sporting event. That’s Lindsay, a three-month-old guide puppy in training who is being raised by Kate Deakins, the director of operations for Penn State men’s soccer.

Lindsay is being trained for the Guide Dog Foundation, which provides guide dogs to the visually impaired at no cost. She can be found spending most of her time with Deakins and the men’s soccer team, which gives her all the love and support on her training journey. She even has her own Instagram, @lindsay.the.guide.pup, where Deakins documents all of Lindsay’s adventures around Happy Valley.

Courtesy of Jaydyn Jenaya — @jaydynjenayaphoto

“She is a ‘people dog,'” said Deakins. “She’s a very snuggly dog, and she sleeps a lot. She’s a really fast learner and that could also just be the breeding and the program in general, but she picks up on stuff super quick, so I’d say she’s pretty smart.”

Deakins was inspired to start raising a guide pup in training by Penn State alumna and “puppy advisor” Jessica Hendricks. Hendricks raised two dogs during her time at Penn State for the Guide Dog Foundation, where she now works.

Deakins is considered a remote raiser, meaning that her dog is raised and trained away from the Guide Dog Foundation campus before returning for further training. Hendricks did the same when she raised on campus. Remote raising as a college student is a huge program at other universities like the University of Maryland and the University of Georgia, which each raise over 100 dogs.

Hendricks said that college raisers are great thanks to the variety of environments and experiences the dog will get to have. Further down the line in her time at Penn State, Lindsay will have exposure to lots of people, public transportation, big events, and possibly even traveling when the men’s soccer season rolls around next fall.

Deakins first got Lindsay about a month ago when she was just eight weeks old. She will be raised by Deakins for about a year and a half, so Lindsay is still in the very early stages of being raised. Right now, the two are focusing on the fundamentals: crate training, name recognition, positive reinforcement training, and loose leash walking.

“We have everything left to learn because she still is so young, and we’ve got lots of experiences to have,” Deakins said.

Lindsay has made it to a few lacrosse games and a gymnastics meet so far. Although she slept through the latter, Lindsay was greeted with screaming fans and lots of excitement at the lacrosse games.

Deakins emphasized the need for Lindsay to practice her focus on Deakins. To help with this, Deakins didn’t let other people engage with Lindsay at all to teach her that not everyone she’s around is someone that she can play with. Lindsay has a job to train for, after all.

The big thing that Deakins and Lindsay have been working on recently is control around others.

“She’s very friendly, and she wants to say hi to people, which is great but also something we’re working on is being controlled when we say hello to people,” Deakins said.

Lindsay has gotten much better at this control, but she still gets super excited when she gets to see all the familiar faces at soccer practice each day. When Lindsay and Deakins walk into practice, the team is usually already doing something, and Lindsay just wants to go run and play with them. The focus is to get Lindsay to pay attention to Deakins and keep all four paws on the floor when they arrive.

Although it’s early in her training process, Lindsay is making Deakins very proud.

“It was really rewarding to see that in public, she’s pretty well-behaved. Sometimes when we’re around the team, she gets really excited, and it can feel like we’re not making as much progress,” Deakins said. “But then I took her out in public and she absolutely crushed it way beyond my expectations.”

After Lindsay is done training with Deakins, she will go back to the Guide Dog Foundation and be evaluated to be a breeder or go into further training to officially graduate with the Guide Dog Foundation or America’s VetDogs, which provides service dogs to veterans and first responders, both of which do so free of cost. During breeder evaluation, the foundation will look at the dog’s health, behavior, and sensitivity. They want to breed responsibly so that something harmful is not passed down in the dog’s genetics.

Breeding or these training programs may not be the right fit for some dogs, and that’s OK.

“We don’t want to force a dog into a role or lifestyle that they would not be successful with,” Hendricks said. “It might be too much anxiety or too much stress, so we really have to evaluate the dog as they’re going through everything and really make sure that we’re placing that dog where they’re going to thrive.”

If they don’t fit with the foundation as a breeder or to go through further training, the Guide Dog Foundation will offer the dog to other organizations in a “career change” to something that may be better suited to them, or they will be offered for the puppy raiser to adopt as a pet.

If they do go on to complete more Guide Dog Foundation training, the dogs will be paired with a graduate and be their companion for the rest of the dog’s guiding career. The foundation holds a ceremony and invites puppy raisers to come to see the graduation and meet the furry graduates.

“That graduation and knowing how much he changed his graduate’s life, that was like the icing on the cake for me,” said Hendricks about Tiller, a guide dog she raised while at Penn State. “It’s hard to put into words because you change someone’s life so much.”

The experience of puppy raising and working with the Guide Dog Foundation is difficult to describe because of the impact it has on people’s lives. Puppy raisers like Deakins and Hendricks spend a year and a half with dogs who become their best friends and then change someone else’s life even more. These dogs make a huge difference in the community, they lessen the stigma surrounding visual impairments, and help the visually impaired live life to the fullest.

It will be hard to let Lindsay go when the time comes but knowing how much of a difference she will make and all the good that will come from Lindsay moving on is what keeps Deakins going.

“When I do give her up, she’s going to go and change someone’s life,” said Deakins.

Hendricks and Deakins hope that Lindsay being active around campus and with the men’s soccer team will help spark interest for students on campus to also be a puppy raiser. Growing the program at Penn State into a chapter like the one at the University of Maryland is something that they both would love to see in the future. This program can be a great route for motivated college students as the foundation covers all vet costs and guide dogs, even ones in training, are allowed in the dorms and on campus.

Interested in raising a guide puppy or learning more about the Guide Dog Foundation? Visit the program’s website for more information.

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About the Author

Mackenna Yount

Mackenna is a sophomore food science major from Manitou Springs, Colorado and is one of Onward State's associate editors. She loves food, is addicted to coffee, and can give you random facts or bad jokes that you didn't ask for. Ask her to bake gluten-free goodies so she has an excuse to try out new cupcake flavors. Mackenna can be contacted via Twitter @mackennayount (especially if you want to show off your best dad jokes) or you can shoot her an email at [email protected]

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