This is a letter to the foster parents of New York City and any major city around the country, written by our founder Sarah Brasky in response to today’s New York Times article “A Final Proving Ground for Guide Dogs to the Blind: Midtown Manhattan.”
Did you know that many Guide Dogs take their "final exams" in NYC?
The Times writes, “There’s no more intense place than New York City to train the dogs — it’s the craziest environment they’ve ever been in,” said Brian O’Neal, a Seeing Eye trainer. “At the end of the training, the idea is, ‘O.K., they know the basics. Now can they handle the grind of the city?’ ”
As foster parents and dog owners, it’s important to keep in mind: If Manhattan is where some of the most highly-trained, well-socialized dogs' skills are tested, just imagine what it's like for a rescue dog who just arrived from a rural shelter, and/or was abused or neglected, and/or didn't receive proper training, and/or has high levels of anxiety. The list goes on.
There’s still hope for guide dogs who have a tough time settling-down in NYC. Says the Times, “Dogs who do not prefer an urban setting can be paired with owners who tend not to be city-goers. Owners train alongside their dogs while boarding at the school for several weeks. Their stay culminates with the trip to Manhattan. While not exactly a test, Manhattan’s conditions present the dogs with intense conditions that can help reveal training aspects to work on.”
We expect a lot of our dogs, whether they are our own - or our foster pets. New York City can be tough on anyone. But compassion, patience, advice-seeking, positive reinforcement, time, socialization - these all can make a huge impact on a dog's ability to comfortably exist in the city, or to at least begin to acclimate. (On that note, city life may not be not comfortable for some dogs, and that's okay too)
Please keep up your devoted work fostering animals; it's easy to forget how tough this city can be, and this article is a nice reminder that amazing things are happening (including guide dog training!), and that dogs are very special creatures.
We save their lives, and they save ours.