Future Guide Dogs Need Foster Parents

Puppy lovers come forward.

As part of its 50th anniversary celebration, the nonprofit Guide Dogs of America organization will open its doors to the public Saturday with tours of its facility, a silent auction and a demonstration of guide dog training techniques.

The annual "Under the Big Top" event gives the public an opportunity to learn how dogs that assist the blind are raised, and provides a chance for people to adopt a puppy on a temporary basis, said Steve Burkman), director of training at the school.

"We desperately need puppy-raisers," Burkman said.

Local residents who agree to adopt the German shepherd, golden retriever and Labrador retriever puppies will keep them about a year, then return them to the school for training. After training is finished and the dogs are focused on their roles as caretakers and companions, they will go to blind recipients.

On Saturday, trainers will lead the puppies past a battery of obstacles and potential distractions to evaluate their responses, Burkman said.

"If we see an entire litter is spooked by something, we can take note," he said. "Last year we had a couple of Harley-Davidsons. When the dogs came, we'd start them up. Vrooom."

Since 1948, Guide Dogs of America has placed about 2,000 dogs throughout the United States and Canada for free, said Marie Thomas, development manager at the school.

The school is at 13445 Glenoaks Blvd. For more information, call (818) 362-5834.

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