KINGSTON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Patients who go to vision imaging in Kingston for their radiology needs get a surprise. They get to meet Unice, a German Shepherd puppy who is in pre-training to be a seeing-eye dog.
“She stays in with me all day long. Sometimes we’ll walk around with other workers here. She visits with other patients, if they want,” Paula Flannery, her trainer, said.
Unice is a 14-month-old puppy that belongs to ‘The Seeing Eye’, a non-profit organization in New Jersey that trains dogs to guide those who are visually impaired. Flannery is a puppy raiser. She says she raises puppies for their first year of life before they return to the non-profit to be trained as official guide dogs.
“They’re just little puppies and we’re training them, you know, to go outside to use the bathroom. We’re training them manners. And exposing them to all the different environments that we can,” Flannery said.
It’s important that seeing-eye dogs get accustomed to various scenarios so they won’t be distracted while helping a visually impaired person. Unice is the fifth puppy Flannery has trained for ‘The Seeing Eye’. Flannery says the puppies also help patients feel more comfortable.
“It’s a good way of comforting people. Letting them, you know, just come in and say let’s talk about this and not about the tests you’re having done today,” Flannery said.
Nanci Romanyshyn is a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist with Luzerne Intermediate Unit, teaching visually impaired children. She says seeing-eye dogs can give those with limited or no visual abilities more freedom.
“The amount of independence a guide dog can give whether it be a high school student, a college student, a veteran, and or an older person that just wants that independence, that can no longer drive and wants to walk to the grocery store, is amazing. It gives them a sense of responsibility. Self-worth as well,” Romanyshyn said.
“It’s our way of giving back. You know we always take take take. But this is something that we do that we feel really is giving back to somebody less fortunate than we are,” Flannery said.