Puppy Raiser on a Mission

Cute, fuzzy, and blonde, looks like a typical eight-month-old .

But thanks to his trainer, Julia Annicelli, Wally's already on the way to becoming a highly trained dog with for the Blind.

An 18-year-old Branford High School (BHS) senior, Julia has been fostering and training Wally since October, with help from her mom, Maria. Specially bred by , one of foremost guide dog schools in the country, Wally joined the Annicelli home when he was three months old.

Based in New York and founded in 1954, Guiding Eyes provides all of its services at no cost and depends on contributions to fulfill its mission. In 2008, Guiding Eyes also launched Heeling Autism, a service-dog program that provides safety and companionship for children on the autism spectrum.

Guiding Eyes is currently seeking more volunteers to raise future guide dog puppies in the New Haven and southern Connecticut , says Michelle Brier, Guiding Eyes's marketing and communications director.

“National Volunteer Week is just around the corner-this year taking place from April 21 to 27,” says Brier. “It's a time to celebrate people like Julia and Maria who are truly changing lives through their volunteerism. Without the extraordinary dedication of our puppy raisers, we would simply be unable to provide guide dogs to the blind and visually impaired.”

Volunteers receive full puppy support, from training classes to free vet care. As a , Julia's job is to love, nurture, and educate Wally for about a year and a half, then send him off for another six months of formal guide dog training with a blind or visually impaired person.

Julia, who plans to attend Gateway College next year, says she knew she would be committing to at least 14 to 16 months as a puppy raiser when she and her mom contacted Guiding Eyes to sign on. After completing pre-puppy classes and qualifying for the role, the work really began, she says.

“Once you get him, you automatically start training,” says Julia, who also attends bi-weekly Saturday training classes with Wally.

“They give us homework to work on,” she adds, like following verbal and hand commands to sit, stand up, and stay close. “Right now, it's the basic stuff, like loose-leash walking to prepare for when he has to lead someone, and settling so he'll calm down and lay down. He's got to learn how to stay undistracted.”

Wally needs to work on a few things, including his puppy proclivity for “counter surfing” and jumping, says Julia.

“He's very outgoing. He loves everyone, so it's very hard to keep him from saying, ‘Hi.' He has to check in with me first.”

Julia says she's documenting her first months as a puppy raiser for her BHS senior project, because “I want to be able to show how much time people put into these dogs and how important they are for the people who need them.”

But the real test will come early next year, when Julia learns whether her work with Wally will lead to his being accepted for formal training, followed by a lifetime of assisting a person in need.

“I'm really excited. I hope he makes it,” she says. “It's definitely going to be hard to say goodbye, but it's a good thing, because he will be giving someone their sight.”

If Wally does make it to the formal training stage, Julia will make plans to see him one more time, about six months later, when Wally and his new partner graduate.

After that, “We would most likely do it again,” says Julia of the Annicelli's plans to possibly foster another pup.

“It's a long process, but I think it's definitely worth it. I hope more people will volunteer,” says Julia. “It's a great thing to give someone a pair of eyes.”

To learn more about Guiding Eyes's puppy training program, contact Eileen Marston at 860-345-3259 or eileen2817@gmail.com Locally, puppy raising classes are held on Saturday mornings in alternate locations in Deep River, Clinton, Guilford, Middletown, and Wallingford. For additional information on Guiding Eyes' Puppy Raising Program, call 1-866-GEB-LABS or visit www.guidingeyes.org/volunteer/puppy-raising.

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    • skylanderdino
    • April 4, 2013

    WHAT THE! Who do you think you are saying puppies are annoying. Wow that, that’s sad. I have NEVER EVER heard anyone say puppies are annoying until you came along.

    • martyncia1204
    • April 4, 2013

    cute puppy, I love you 🙂

    • Tamer Kilic
    • April 4, 2013

    Assesses cute

    • Alexia Cole
    • April 4, 2013


    • Julius Cardenas
    • April 4, 2013


    • LadyLovelyOO7
    • April 4, 2013

    Adorable! So cute!<33

    • daisy2424x
    • April 4, 2013

    awwww i want one

    • PuppiesAndDeathRBS
    • April 4, 2013

    The one porblem is… that they grow up… Enjoy it while you can. 🙂

    • Essam F. Shousha
    • April 4, 2013

    I had to punch a hole through a wall to feel manly again.

    • B. Walker
    • April 4, 2013

    i cant stop saying awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!♥

    • Blu3Sh4des
    • April 4, 2013


    • emilythebesto lolly
    • April 4, 2013

    omg how cute

    • emilythebesto lolly
    • April 4, 2013


    • Rose Parks
    • April 4, 2013

    lol me and my friend couldnt stop loving the little puppy. Its so cute 🙂
    We couldnt stop saying 😀

    • arielleamponsa
    • April 4, 2013

    Omg so cute

    • JD Hoopz
    • April 4, 2013

    It’s really hard to get noticed on Youtube today. All I want is for people to give us a chance. You don’t have to subscribe to us, But all I ask is to just check us out. JDhoopz does amazing trick shots with footballs! We just started our channel and we need help to grow it. So if you could please check us out and share our videos! LIKE THIS SO OTHER PEOPLE CAN SEE IT! Thanks

    • hui long yin
    • April 4, 2013

    so fluffy i gonns die

    • AlvaLilj
    • April 4, 2013


    • bamna966
    • April 4, 2013

    So cute

    • PanNarran
    • April 4, 2013

    Will be calm, will be composed, will be-


    *pukes rainbows*

    • apml1992
    • April 4, 2013

    you mean, figuratively

    • 3424lauren
    • April 4, 2013


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