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This canine at college growing, learning to serve while ‘living’ at Alfred University
10/07/11

Corissa and Darrow

Corissa and Darrow

This summer, Alfred University junior biology major Corissa Fanning volunteered to raise a puppy for Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a local guide dog training organization.

Fanning will keep Darrow, a five-month-old black Labrador puppy, for several months while she works extensively with him in preparation for the service dog training program that he will enter after leaving her care.

"He takes up a lot of my time. It’s a big responsibility. It’s been challenging, but I really enjoy doing this," Fanning said. This is her first time working with a service dog. The training process is more intense than raising a puppy as a pet, although Fanning and her family have done very intensive training with their dogs in the past, many of which have been rescue animals.

Fanning discovered Guiding Eyes for the Blind last year, when a resident assistant in the Upper Pine Hill Suites hosted an event for the organization. Fanning had been looking for a way to keep a dog on campus and after investigating several options she decided to become a puppy raiser.

"Everybody has been very accommodating," said Fanning of the campus administration and staff. Darrow lives with Fanning in Openhym Hall, where she is a resident assistant. She plans to bring him to her classes regularly once he is slightly calmer in public places.

Prior to taking Darrow, Fanning participated in a pre-placement training course, where she learned to handle and train puppies and younger dogs for the program. She and Darrow attend group classes in Hornell every other week for basic obedience training as well as specific commands and skills that Darrow will need as a Guiding Eye dog, such as learning to ignore distractions.

"He has rules that another dog wouldn’t have," Fanning pointed out. The campus environment has made this part of Darrow’s education more challenging, as many residents don’t realize that he is in training and is held to different standards of behavior than most puppies.

Darrow will leave Fanning’s care at 14 to 18 months old to enter the Guide Dog training program, where he will go through an intensive training process before being paired with a blind or visually impaired guide dog user to assist him or her in daily activities.

Fanning is a graduate of Morrisville Eaton Middle-High School and a daughter of Tina Hankins of Bouckville and Terry Fanning of Morrisville.

Guiding Eyes for the Blind is an internationally accredited, non-profit guide dog school based in New York State that provides the blind and visually impaired with Guiding Eye dogs, training, and support services. The organization breeds over 500 dogs each year for use in the Guiding Eye program or in other service dog industries.

For more information about Guiding Eyes for the Blind and ways to get involved with the organization, visit www.guidingeyes.org or call (800) 942-0149.