‘Puppy raiser’ plans comedy night to benefit Seeing Eye

By Clare Marie Celano
Staff Writer

Joel Podos loves dogs. Podos, 24, of Manalapan, is using his love of canines to help other people by raising puppies for The Seeing Eye.

Podos, who will graduate from Southern New Hampshire University with a degree in sports management in October, is preparing to raise a third puppy for the organization whose mission is to enhance the independence, dignity and self-confidence of blind people through the use of Seeing Eye dogs, according to its website.

“I love what The Seeing Eye does for people,” Podos said. “I believe in what they are doing. It is amazing the way the dogs change people’s lives and I wanted to be a part of it.”

Podos has been involved with the organization since he saw a presentation from representatives of The Seeing Eye at the Monmouth County Fair five years ago. He became a member of the Monmouth County Seeing Eye Puppy Club, Little Silver, attended meetings and, after completing training, brought home Phoenix, the first puppy he raised for The Seeing Eye.

Gail Drawbaugh, a Monmouth County Seeing Eye Puppy Club leader who has raised nine dogs and sent them on to The Seeing Eye, said Podos has been “a star” since he raised his first puppy.

“He is a hard worker and is very dedicated to our cause,” she said.

After working with The Seeing Eye for five years, Podos decided to organize a fundraiser that wil benefit the organization. He formed a committee and will present The Seeing Eye Gift Auction, Dinner and Comedy Fundraiser on Sept. 29 at Sterling Gardens, Matawan. He said he came up with the idea after seeing a similar fundraising event that was sponsored by an animal rescue group.

“I wanted to put together an event to raise as much money as I could and give it to The Seeing Eye,” Podos said.

Tickets, which must be purchased in advance, are $38 and include dinner and a night of comedy. Tickets for the gift auction will be available at the event. For tickets, call 732-272-7078.

Podos is seeking local businesses to sponsor the event. Donations of monetary gifts or gifts for the baskets are appreciated.

Michelle Barlak, a public relations specialist for The Seeing Eye, Morristown, said Podos has done a good job organizing the event.

“We are excited about the event Joel has been working on,” she said. “I think it’s quite amazing, what he has been able to pull together on his own. It’s always great when our puppy raisers want to get involved at this level because they are then so close to the organization and realize the impact they can have on our mission.”

Barlak said the organization, in addition to breeding, raising and training dogs to guide people who are blind, instructs the recipients of the dogs in the care and proper use of the dogs.

“Our dogs live all over the United States and Canada,” Barlak said. “If at any time someone needs help, we are there for them on the phone or we will send someone out to them.”

The Seeing Eye was founded in 1929 and does not receive government funding. It operates from donations from individuals and organizations. An individual who receives a dog pays $150 for the first dog and $50 for each dog after that. The working life of a dog is eight to 10 years. Members of the military pay $1 for a dog.

Podos has raised two German shepherds, receiving each dog at the age of about 7 weeks. The dogs remain with the puppy raiser until they are between 14 and 16 months old.

“I have to teach the dog basic commands and socialization. We take the dog out in public to different locations and situations such as shopping malls, sporting events, etc.,” he said.

Phoenix, the first dog Podos raised for The Seeing Eye, is now working with a woman in Ohio.

Diesel, the second puppy he raised, was not up to The Seeing Eye standards for a guide dog and Podos adopted him. Diesel is now friends with the family pet, Ginger, a cockapoo.