Happiness is a warm puppy.
It’s a sentiment realized every day for Spencer Lang, an eighth-grader from northern Nevada. Spencer’s classmates at Sage Ridge School rarely see him alone. Whether in class or at his locker, a loving black Labrador retriever is by his side – the adorable Lab, Subaru.
Subaru wears a headcollar, which his trainer Spencer Lang
uses to teach control and to direct the dog’s focus and body.
MORE THAN A PET
Subaru is more than just a pet; he’s a guide dog puppy in training with a much loftier goal than playing fetch, hunting, or lying on a couch somewhere. One day, if all goes right, Subaru will be the eyes to the world for a person who is blind.
“I learned about puppy raising from a colleague whose daughter was doing it. I thought, ‘Wow, my son would love to do that,’” recalled Risa Lang. “So we reached out to Guide Dogs for the Blind and never looked back.”
The Langs – dad Steve, mom Risa, Spencer, and 11-year-old sister Mikaela – became volunteer puppy raisers for the California-based organization. They started puppy sitting for other raisers in the area before deciding they were ready for the full-time commitment. And a full-time commitment it is!
“Because it’s our first time, it’s like having a baby,” admitted Risa. “There is so much responsibility, but thankfully we had great support from other raisers, and everything fell into place.”
ROLE OF A PUPPY RAISER
With 900 puppies needing raiser homes every year, puppy raisers are a critical part of producing highly trained guide dogs. To support the puppy raisers, Guide Dogs for the Blind offers a comprehensive puppy raising manual, organized training and socialization, as well as staff who offer problem solving for the pups and their raisers. The cost of training and veterinary care is completely covered by Guide Dogs for the Blind. (Also, the organization’s services are free of charge to all who eventually receive the fully trained guide dogs!)
“My role as a puppy raiser is to teach the dog basic obedience and how to behave in public,” said Spencer. “I thought that it would be fun to take him to school, and it would help him stay calm even when surrounded by a lot of activity. When he is at school with me, he walks around wagging his tail and always makes people smile. His whole body moves when he is happy. When we get to class, he always lies down and goes to sleep by my feet.”
Subaru will live with the Langs until he’s about 15 months old, when he will return to San Rafael, California, or Boring, Oregon, for his official guide dog training. He’ll learn to lead a person the quickest, safest route, stopping for and avoiding obstacles. (Learn more about guide dogs or call  295-4050.)
“I’m sure we’ll all be devastated when he leaves; we’re all in love with him,” said Risa. “But we’re committed to the cause to help someone else, and Guide Dogs for the Blind allows us to do that.”
Hopefully, one day, Subaru will be teamed with someone who, like this puppy’s namesake, will be able to keep moving through life and in a partnership that brings happiness for a lifetime.
HOW DID SUBARU GET HIS NAME?
When the Langs are out and about with Subaru, the first question they get asked is, “Subaru, like the car?” That had the family wondering just why their puppy had been given that name.
The answer is found more than 200 miles away, in Danville, California, with the Moore family, who are the Guide Dogs for the Blind volunteer breeding stock custodians for a black Labrador named Maeve. Subaru is one of Maeve’s puppies, and as the breeding stock custodians, the Thomas family has the chance to submit puppy names to the organization for consideration. They submitted the name Subaru due to their loyalty to the car brand.
“We were hooked after we bought our first Forester in 2003 to cart our three kids to school, athletics, and to the Sierras,” recounted Sue Moore. “The car made it through high school, two college campuses, and a few seasons at Tahoe ski resorts with no problem.”
That original Forester today has more than 176,000 miles and counting, and the Moores have two additional Outback models that keep their family on the go.
SUBARU – LEASHED TO GUIDE DOGS
“It takes a village to raise a child.” That African wisdom extends far beyond humans; just ask Dave and Beth Adams. The Dallas-area couple knows firsthand that it takes an entire community to raise puppies that will go on to serve a much greater purpose.
Dave and Beth are two of the more than 1,400 puppy raisers for Guide Dogs for the Blind, the nation’s largest guide dog school, located in Northern California. Dave, who serves as dealer development manager for the Dallas zone of Subaru of America, Inc., began the mission when living on the West Coast. He and Beth wanted to continue their service when they moved to Dallas a few years ago, but needed help getting a Texas guide dog raiser club started. In came Sewell Subaru.
“At Sewell, we're dedicated to supporting the communities in which we live and work,” explained Doug Veling, Sewell general manager. “That's why we approach nonprofits like Guide Dogs for the Blind with the same drive and energy as we do all of our core business functions.”
Sewell provided transportation support for the new puppies of the Lone Star Guide Dog Raisers Club in Dallas-Fort Worth three years ago. Since then, clubs have started in Austin, San Antonio, Houston, and College Station, Texas. Putting customer service and community support at the forefront of their dealership is nothing new for Sewell. Recipient of the 2012 Stellar Care Award, Sewell is regarded among the ranks of other Subaru retailers for instituting the highest standards of excellence at its dealership.
“Professionally, I help dealers get new dealerships off the ground each day,” added Dave Adams. “But my passion is in helping visually impaired people stay in the game of life with four-legged companions who bring them not only mobility, but confidence as well. I love that both facets of my life have intersected in such a meaningful way.”