The Labradors are making stops in Ohio, Illinois, and Colorado to meet up with their volunteer foster families

By Kelli Bender
October 27, 2020 10:30 AM
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Credit: Courtesy Guiding Eyes for the Blind

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has thrown a wrench into everyone's plans on some level, and dogs are not excluded from this group.

Eight Labrador retrievers, working with Guiding Eyes for the Blind, were ready for the next step in their work, when the pandemic interrupted their education. Since the dogs often depend on commercial flights to get to trainers and volunteer fosters, Guide Eyes for the Blind, a nonprofit that trains and places guide dogs free of charge, had to get creative. What the nonprofit came up with is a road trip. On October 19, two Guiding Eyes staff members and the 8 dogs set off from Yorktown Heights, New York, in an RV customized for them on a multi-day journey to Ohio, Illinois, and Colorado.

Credit: Courtesy Guiding Eyes for the Blind

The RV is equipped with special crates, so all of the canines can ride comfortably while on the road. At each of the planned stops, several of the dogs are meeting with volunteer fosters so they can continue with their guide dog training. Guiding Eyes for the Blind is keeping animal lovers updated on all the pit stops this pooch-filled RV is making on their website.

Six of the dogs on the trip have completed harness training, and are on their way to foster families in Ohio and Colorado for the time being. There, they will be picked up by a regional guide dog mobility instructor for home training with the human student they matched with. All six of the dogs on the trip will have completed home training by the end of the year.

Credit: Courtesy Guiding Eyes for the Blind

The two other dogs on the trip are Guiding Eyes' first youth program dog and a graduated dog that is returning to his graduate handler after a year-long stay with Guiding Eyes trainers.

Unfortunately, Guiding Eyes for the Blind isn't the only group that has had to rethink transportation to help their pets. Big Dog Rescue Ranch, a dog rescue in Florida, is working to raise awareness about the hundreds of dogs looking for help in Puerto Rico.

Santuario Canita in Puerto Rico, the largest animal sanctuary on the island, is dedicated to protecting animals, but the combination of the pandemic, hurricanes, and other natural disasters has left the rescue overcrowded, and in a position where they have to turn down dogs in need.

Santuario Canita is currently caring for over 800 dogs and needs help. In the past, some of these dogs could be flown to shelters with more room and resources on commercial flights. Now, the rescue is depending on chartered flights to get the excess animals to safety. To help with these efforts, Big Dog Rescue Ranch, which has taken Santuario Canita animals in the past, has started a GoFundME to raise $50,000 to charter two cargo flights for 250 of the dogs overcrowding Santuario Canita from Puerto Rico to other shelters in the United States that have the space for these pets. These flights would save these dogs from being euthanized and would free up more space at Santuario Canita for homeless dogs in need.