A recent graduate of Lawrence High School is bringing awareness to the importance of seeing eye dogs.
Beginning in January 2019, Kaitlyn Maloney began raising a German Shepherd puppy Rosalee for The Seeing Eye, a Morristown organization that trains guide dogs for visually impaired and blind people.
“I recognized that many people were very interested in the program but did not know the best way to approach someone with a guide dog,” said Maloney, who is currently a freshman at James Madison University in Virginia.
That’s when she came up with the idea to educate people on the best way to approach a guide dog while also spreading the word about the great work The Seeing Eye is doing, and made it the basis of her Girl Scout Gold Award project.
“I was surprised how many people approached me when I was out with Rosalee and one question almost everyone asked was, how should they approach a guide dog. That’s when I knew what my Gold Award would be focused on,” she said.
As part of her project, Kaitlyn developed a 5-inch by 7-inch handout with tips on Ways to Approach a Guide Dog that she learned from The Seeing Eye:
• Don’t let your pet near a guide dog, even if your pet is leashed. Allowing your pet to visit or “say hi,” even for just a moment, can cause the guide dog to lose focus on her job.
• It’s helpful to let a person who is blind know that you are nearby and tell them if you have a dog with you.
• Do not call the dog’s name, make eye contact, feed or talk to the dog. It’s always best to treat the dog as if she is not there.
• Do not pet a guide dog when she is wearing the guide harness. If the dog is resting without her harness, ask the owner before you pet the dog and respect the person’s decision if they say no.
• Do not shout out directions, take the person by the arm or interrupt them when they are crossing the street. If you are concerned for their safety, ask them if they need help.
Maloney also developed a patch program for the Girl Scouts called “Greater Awareness for Guide Dogs”. Through this program, Girl Scouts can learn about guide dogs, the best way to approach them, and earn a patch after completing a number of activities.
Maloney has attended multiple community events in Mercer County where she handed out her cards and spoke with adults and children about The Seeing Eye, the importance of guide dogs, and how to properly approach them.
“Rosalee was always by my side at these events which was great exposure for Rosalee and educational for people wanting to learn about guide dogs. People loved meeting Rosalee and they were appreciative of the information provided through my project,” she said.
Rosalee returned to The Seeing Eye in September to complete her guide dog training.