by Colleen Dabrowski
Griffin, a Labrador and Golden Retriever mix, is the Center for Civic Engagement house’s favorite pup. Griffin is a six-month-old pup training to be a Seeing Eye Dog on Drew University’s campus.
Labrador and Golden Retriever mixes, called Goldadors, are known for being well-behaved, easily-trainable, perfect family dogs. Goldadors are often selected for working roles such as hunting, therapy and, like Griffin, service. The Guide Dogs for the Blind report that Goldadors are their most successful guide dogs. Goldadors are notably friendly and affectionate dogs, with most having no reservations around strangers or small children. Amy Sugerman, Assistant Director of the Center for Civic Engagement, says that Griffin is more affectionate than his dad, Linus, a former Drew-trained Seeing Eye Dog. Goldadors have a very low prey drive, meaning they aren’t likely to display natural hunting behaviors, a low tendency towards barking and howling, as well as a low level of wanderlust. Goldadors are, on average, 22 inches to 24 inches tall at the shoulder, weighing from 60 pounds to 80 pounds. Griffin is still young, and has more growing to do!
Griffin can be found all around campus during his training. Twice a day, Griffin walks across campus to Davies House for exposure training. Exposure training involves going on walks around campus, interacting, or rather not interacting, with other dogs, squirrels, pedestrians and bikes that pass by. The goal of the exposure training is to get Griffin comfortable in as many social scenarios as possible. He will be undergoing a test of his Seeing Eye Dog skills. If he passes the test, he will go on to the Vesting Ceremony. If you see Griffin wearing a vest, congratulate him! He’s doing his best.
In the training program, Griffin will be on campus until next Winter Break. Then, Griffin will undergo four months of professional training. After that, he will be referred to as “Class Ready,” meaning he’s ready to be paired up with a visually impaired person to be their Seeing Eye Dog. The pair will go on to train together for one month before celebrating their graduation and the start of their new life together.
Griffin still has much learning to do. Dog Mom Amy reports that he loves toilet paper and has been caught more than once grabbing some and running off with it. His favorite toy is a Kong full of treats. Like his dad Linus, Griffin loves to show off his toys to his friends. Amy Hains, the Administrative Assistant at the Center, affectionately says, “He has a big personality.”
Seeing Eye Dogs spend 15 to 16 months with their volunteer family receiving exposure and manners training before moving on to continue their mission of becoming a service dog. This is the second time Sugerman has taken on the responsibility of raising a puppy that will one day change someone’s life. People often ask her how she can give them up, to which she replies with a quote from A.A. Milne’s Winnie The Pooh: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”