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Club members raise pups to be seeing-eye dogs

August 03, 1999

Sara and VegasBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

photo: MARLA BROSE / staff photographer




CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A sad day will come in November for Erin and Sara Harbaugh.

It's a safe bet Vegas won't be happy, either.

Vegas is a cute, active yellow lab pup. He's a little silly at 13 months, but greatness lies in his future. His destiny is to become a trained seeing-eye dog.

His real training begins when he reaches 16 months and the day he leaves Sara and Erin for advanced training in New Jersey.

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"I'll be doing a lot of crying on that day, said Sara Harbaugh, 11.

Sara and 14-year-old Erin belong to the Franklin County 4-H Seeing Eye Puppy Club. Donna Boyd, 54, of Chambersburg, is the club's leader.

4-H Seeing Eye Puppy ClubThe club has been raising puppies since 1985, Boyd said. She is raising Jason, a black lab and her 14th pup. "I cry every time one leaves."

One member, Virginia Knoll of nearby Cumberland County, Pa., has raised 42 puppies, Boyd said.

The club currently has 14 4-H'ers and four adult members. Three families are on a waiting list to join and get a pup, she said. Attending the club's monthly meeting is a requirement, Boyd said.

"We housebreak the pups, teach them basic commands, put them on an eating schedule, teach them to stay off the furniture, and try to socialize them by keeping them in contact with people and other animals," she said. "We get them used to everyday things like noises and slippery floors."

The puppies - mostly black and yellow Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers and German Shepherds - are supplied by The Seeing Eye, a Morristown, N.J., foundation which has been training guide dogs since 1929, Boyd said.

The foundation pays veterinarian bills and provides a food allotment. "We provide the love and a foster home," Boyd said.

"I know I'm going to cry when Vegas goes, but I'll know that he's going for a good cause and will be helping a blind person," Erin Harbaugh said.

Vegas hasn't always been the perfect guest in the Harbaugh household.

"He ate my beanbag chair," Erin said.

"We'll get another puppy when he goes - unless he flunks out; then we'll get him back," Sara said.

Boyd said dogs who don't make it through the advance training are often given back to the kids and adults who brought them up.

Candice, Sarah Ehle's German shepherd, is the second pup she raised. The first was Sparkles, also a shepherd who has completed her training and been matched up with a blind person.

Anyone interested in the puppy program may call Boyd at 1-717-264-9192.

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