Lehigh Valley

Pups in training learn to ride bus to help visually impaired

Lehigh Valley volunteers for Seeing...

LEHIGH VALLEY, Pa. - They're not your average LANta bus passenger. They're seeing eye dogs in training.

"We get our pups when they are seven weeks old," said Robyn Oplinger.

These pups come from The Seeing Eye in Morristown, New Jersey. Oplinger is the leader of the Lehigh County club.

"We do basic obedience and exposure to the community," she said.

All of the ladies are volunteers who foster and train these pups until they are about 18 months old.

"Then they go back to The Seeing Eye for their formal training to actually do the guiding that they'll do for their blind or visually impaired owner," Oplinger said.

On Thursday, the pups were learned how to ride a bus.

"Their owners will be using public transportation most likely so we teach our dogs how to get on and off the bus, to listen to the sounds that are involved, the different walkways the dogs might be on," said Oplinger.

They have to learn to sit safely, which can take a little time and coaxing. The goal is to get the dogs so used to riding the bus and mingling with the community that they could go unnoticed -- if it weren't for the cuteness quotient. 

But these are working dogs and puppy-dog eyes aside, Oplinger says it's hard not to get attached. So she focuses on the person she is training her dog, Casey, for.

"If our dog is successful and actually placed with someone, we are linked with someone that we will never know but our lives have crossed and are linked because of playing with puppies for 18 months," Oplinger said.

For more information about The Seeing Eye puppy training program, visit seeingeye.org.

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