By Sophia Chen
As many students know, Westridge requires students to complete their CAP (Community Action Project) to graduate. Although posed as a requirement, the project has inspired many students to dedicate their causes to interests outside of school, helping our community in various ways. Jessica Beskind ‘18, has a unique CAP- training puppies to guide the blind. Read below to learn more about her CAP!
A: I am a puppy-raiser for Guide Dogs for the Blind and we take puppies when they are eight to ten weeks old and raise them until they are about one-and-a-half years old. We teach them basic obedience and socialize them, so they can adapt to different scenarios in the world.
Q: What made you interested in this topic?
A: I have always been interested in raising a service dog and I met someone who was already a puppy raiser. I feel the organization has a really good purpose because it gives people independence and the ability to live their lives on their own terms.
Q: How many dogs have you trained?
A: Cinta is the first dog I have trained, but I have puppy-sat other dogs before Cinta. I took them in for a week at a time.
Q: What have you found the most challenging about your CAP?
A: It is hard sometimes to be persistent if the puppy you are training has a habit, or is not learning one of the techniques I am teaching her. For example, Cinta is always interested in leaves, so it is a challenge to prevent her from eating things on the ground. But overall, Cinta is a very good puppy. There are always individual aspects that puppies have harder times with.
Q: How do you train the puppies?
A: Guide Dogs for the Blind has many regulations, including what the puppies can eat, what they can play with, and how they should be trained. I need to teach Cinta basic commands, like “sit”, “down”, and “wait.” There are many protocols I have to follow to teach Cinta.
Q: How do you get paired with puppy? Do you get screened?
A: We can give requests of traits we want. Guide Dogs for the Blind only breeds golden retrievers and labradors, so we can request the breed and gender of the puppy. I am not sure if you need to be screened. But first you need to practice raising the puppies to take the dogs and experience training the puppies. Once you get involved and show your dedication to the process, you puppy sit the dogs. I brought three different dogs to school last year so I can get used to having a puppy with me all the time. Then, you fill out paperwork and you get matched with a puppy.
Q: What do you like the most about working with the puppies?
A: One of my favorite parts is seeing the puppy grow and it it exciting when I see Cinta master a technique. I was really happy when Cinta learned “down” because she struggled with that technique for a couple of weeks. I also really like the graduations for the puppies. After the puppies are recalled to the campus, they are trained with more experienced trainers and the matched with the blind. When the puppies are finally ready, they have a puppy graduation where the puppy raisers can see the puppies again. It is really rewarding to see the dogs as working guides, and the people they will work with for the rest of their working lives.