It’s nearly impossible to walk on cam pus today without spotting a yellow-jacketed guide dog in training. There are between 100 and 120 on the University of Georgia's Athens cam pus, and twice that number of puppy raisers, according to Deana Izzo, the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind's Southeastern field representative. The puppy-raising program has spread to Kennesaw State, Emory and Augusta State universities in Georgia, as well as Auburn University and the University of North Carolina. The program took root at UGA through the work of alumna Sarah Hooper (BSA – Avian Biology, ’10). She began raising guide dogs as a Girl Scout Gold Award project in high school and wanted to continue her work in college. She dealt with some resistance in the beginning, especially within her on-campus housing accommodations, a requirement for freshmen at the time. Her professors were all receptive to the idea, though. She even took her service-dog-in-training to her labs and to work at the college’s poultry farm. Now, the program has grown so that there are coraisers who can split training responsiblities. Campers can take puppies for a week or more and buddies can babysit puppies for a matter of hours so students can attend labs and the like. As students approached Hooper and word got out, the program grew. Hooper and Izzo worked together to establish policies and procedures for the puppy-raising program and on recruitment. Eventually, Hooper served as area coordinator. “We took our puppy-raising program and modified it to fit a college campus,” Izzo said. Today Hooper has her veterinary medicine degree, also from UGA, and she’s working toward her doctorate at the University of Missouri.
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