Busy youth rearing 3rd guide dog | TheUnion.com

Busy youth rearing 3rd guide dog

The Union StaffKatie Skeen recently presented Alcott, a yellow labrador retriever, to Chris Peterson of Rochester, Minn.
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Graduation Day at Guide Dogs for the Blind, Inc., in San Rafael is a proud one for the youth and adults who present the dogs they have raised to blind people as full-fledged guide dogs.

Guide Dog’s pups are born at the Guide Dog kennels. At 2 months of age they are placed in the homes of puppy raisers, who housebreak them and teach obedience and social skills. This socializing and training by the raiser helps lay a solid foundation for future training of the puppy in guide work. Potential raisers are carefully screened and pay for all food and kennel supplies while they have the puppies.

When the dogs are between 13 and 17 months old, they are returned to the school to begin a five- to 10-month program of training with licensed instructors. If the dogs complete this training, they are matched with blind individuals from throughout the United States and Canada. The new person-dog team completes an intensive, in-residence course at the Guide Dog School, culminating in a graduation ceremony at which the raiser presents the dog to the new graduate.

Fourteen-year-old Katie Skeen of Grass Valley is enrolled as a freshman at Bitney Springs Charter High School. She is currently raising her third guide dog puppy, Laika. Her first guide dog puppy, “Fletch,” is a working service dog in San Francisco. Katie is involved in many volunteer-related activities, including the Nevada County Animal Shelter and animal rescue and breed rescue organizations. The industrious teen has been an active Girl Scout for 10 years and works as the nursery attendant at her church. Katie would like to work with animals as a career – likely as a vet – but also wants to help people. Passionately interested in both human and animal rights, she recently attended a peace march in San Francisco.

Katie says of her activities: “There’s something about making a difference, and about thinking of others first, without wanting any return, that gives you a real appreciation for life.”

Katie hopes to go to Australia next summer with the People to People Student Ambassador Program, for which she was nominated and selected. “I need to raise a lot of money to go on the three-week trip. I am really excited about the opportunity to represent our country.”

Anyone interested in sponsoring Katie, either to defray her guide dog raiser costs or to contribute to her Student Ambassador fund, can reach her at

If you live in the Nevada County area and are interested in raising a guide dog puppy, please call Lisa McClelland at (530) 432-0445.

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