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Past Achievements: Winning the Youth Scholarship Offered by Guide Dogs for the Blind

After graduating high school in 2012, I was awarded 1st place and received the highest level of youth scholarship from Guide Dogs for the Blind. Instead of doing the 2 year Exotic Animal Training and Management program, I attended Bergin University of Canine Studies to achieve my AS in Assistance Dog Education and BS in Cynology (canine studies).


Below is the essay I submitted for the scholarship:


Carrie Faber

GDB Scholarship


Throughout the majority of my school years, I have been known as the “girl with the guide dogs”. This title has allowed many opportunities for personal interaction with individuals, as well as opened my eyes to the diverse community I live in. If it weren’t for my four-legged companions by my side, I would not have had the experience and exposures to aid and educate the public on volunteerism and the beneficial impact service dogs have.

In the spring of 2007, I witnessed a Guide Dog puppy in training for the first time. I was amazed and inspired how his raisers dedicated so much time and love into this dog, only to selflessly give him up to help change the life of someone else. I wanted to get involved as soon as I learned of Guide Dog puppy raisers, and ultimately joined Bonnie Finsthwait’s group, Auburn Foothills Guiding Eyes. After attending my first meeting, I knew this was a program I wanted to be a part of. I have always loved animals, especially dogs, and knew I would enjoy giving back to the community.

Raising Guide Dogs has provided me insight on the many varied roles animals have in assisting people in providing companionship and independence. I have been welcomed and educated in not only the Blind Community, but the Deaf Community as well. I decided to take an American Sign Language (ASL) course at the local community college as an honors class. I wanted to further my knowledge, as well as assimilate this other culture that also uses the companionship of dogs for service. ASL has been such an enjoyable experience, and it has especially been fun bringing my guide dog pup with me. While in class, I met a fellow classmate, Susan, whom was learning ASL because she was rapidly losing her hearing; she was told she would completely lose her ability to hear in approximately 4 months.

Throughout the ASL semester, I observed Susan’s meek and depressed behavior due to her frightening diagnosis. Moreover, she was having a difficult time grasping the foreign language she was needing to learn for the next phase of her life. I volunteered to help tutor her and didn’t realize how much more of an impact my guide dog pup, Delphi, would have on her than the ASL lessons themselves. Susan began to open up more, enjoying the time spent with Delphi in the classroom; the dog helped break down the mental barriers that kept her introverted and isolated.

Every day, Susan became more and more eager to learn about not only the language, but the service dogs can provide. I informed her of the benefits of having a canine companion and the love and independence they endow; I also explained to her how service dogs had impacted my life. Even though I did not have the physical challenges she had, I could understand some of Susan’s unsureness and apprehension. I explained to her that my experience of volunteering as a Guide Dogs for the Blind puppy raiser helped me gain confidence in my own life; having a canine companion at your side invites human interaction and shifts the attention to the dog.

Susan grew interested in having her own hearing dog, and I aided her down the path to get a canine companion. Observing the way her demeanor changed from the interaction with Delphi, I knew that a hearing dog for herself would be beneficial. After our semester of ASL ended, we continued to keep in touch, and she informed me that she received a Dog for the Deaf named, Faithful, and she was so thankful for the service and independence he provided her.

Growing up, I used to be quiet and shy around new people. Volunteering for Guide Dogs, however, has benefited me greatly and made me more outgoing and confident, performing many school speeches and presentations. When my first guide dog was old enough to accompany me in school, I took part in an assembly for a K-8 school on volunteering for Guide Dogs. Little did I know, this would be the first of many public presentations. In taking honors classes at Sierra College, I presented speeches with visual aids to many different classes, educating students and teachers on the Guide Dogs for the Blind organization.

Many kids approach me when I have my puppy in training, and the ones I have spent time educating in my community will now come up to me and say that they saw a guide dog and thought of me, and that they knew not to touch the working dog or be scared of the person that is blind. They now understand that the dog is doing its job and to not distract it, but it is okay to go up and say “hi” to the person on the other end of the leash, and not to be distant because they look different.

I have raised a total of seven guide dog puppies, aside from the two that are still in training, all five of the others are working, bettering the lives’ of others. My first puppy, Nikira, taught me so many important attributes it makes me even more thankful for the journey that Guide Dogs for the Blind has taken me. Nikira was in class and scheduled to graduate on June 21, 2009 with her new companion. Two days before graduation, I received a call informing me that Nikira had been career changed and if I would like to adopt her as my own pet. I was thrilled and eager to be able to get her back, however I was informed that a woman was interested in adopting her.

The group leader of a Guide Dog group in Sacramento, Kathy Pendergast, recently lost her therapy dog, Hoyt, and was in search of another dog to fill his big shoes. Kathy asked if she could adopt Nikira and certify her, since Nikira possessed the “spunk” and eagerness to work that she was looking for. As a thirteen year old, my initial reaction was to say “no”, and keep the pup I had raised for myself. I had never had to give up anything I loved before, and now I had to make the decision to either keep Nikira, or give her up once more.

It was a difficult decision for me to make at the time, but in letting my first guide dog pup be adopted so she could help others, it allowed me to raise my subsequent pups. In raising them and seeing the impact they had on others’ lives, I realized working with animals is what I wanted to do as a career. Furthermore, I learned that so much more is gained by selflessly giving, than in focusing on fulfilling one’s own needs and desires. I also discovered how much I enjoy being part of the process of taking a young puppy and creating a strong foundation spending time, teaching, loving, and exposing it to different things in preparation for their destiny.

While researching colleges in pursuit of furthering my education and fulfilling my goal of participating in the service animal industry, I discovered Moorpark College’s hands-on Exotic Animal Training and Management (EATM) program. Shortly after visiting the facility, I had a conversation with our group’s CFR, Celeste Butrym. In discussing my future plans after graduation, I mentioned to her my desire to pursue a career path working with service animals, and told her about the EATM program I was looking into. Celeste said she was aware of the program and thought that attending the school would be a good career choice due to their well-respected reputation. Upon visiting the facility, I knew it was the right fit for me. My decision to attend the program started me on the path of taking prerequisite classes at my local community college as a high school honor student. To date, I have completed all but one prerequisite class required, which I will be taking at Moorpark in the fall, prior to applying for the EATM program in January 2014.

One of the prerequisite classes I took was Communications. Initially I was hesitant having to speak in front of an audience, but it turned out to be one of my favorite college courses. The class helped me even more with my speech and presentation skills, as well as allowed me to further educate my classmates and teachers on raising Guide Dogs for the Blind. If I hadn’t been passionate about applying for the EATM program, I never would have taken this class, but I am so glad I did; it became a fun and gratifying experience.

After I complete the EATM program, I plan on continuing my education and obtain my Bachelor Degree in canine studies and perhaps go on to receive my Masters. I hope to work in the service animal industry in the continued effort to enhance the lives of both human and companion. I enjoy being part of the process of building a strong codependent team whose lives are richer because of the partnership.

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