Sophomore guides dog into new role

MEGAN HUBER

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Oftentimes, there’s a feeling of dread associated with mom or dad coming home with what they consider to be a great idea. Luckily, for sophomore Brandon Eastman, that great idea came with a puppy attached.

Earlier this year, Eastman’s mom announced that the family was going to take on the momentous and frustrating task of fostering and training a puppy to become a guide dog for the blind.  

Eastman and his family soon welcomed Nolan, a black lab, into their ranks.

Nolan has been living with the Eastmans for six months now. Typically, a foster dog will live with a family for twelve to fourteen months, depending on their training.

(COURTESY / BRANDON EASTMAN)

The Eastman family is collaborating with Guide Dogs for the Blind, which is a national guide dog training school. According to their website, their mission is to create strong partnerships between people, dogs, and communities. They hope to add meaning and empowerment to the lives of blind people through a guide dog.

Though Nolan is training to one day become an exceptional companion and assistant, his puppy status means there have been a lot of ups and downs in the process. Eastman admitted that working with Nolan can be a pain because as a puppy, he has boundless amounts of energy.

“Since they’re training to be guide dogs, we have to have strict rules with them and always be watching him,” Eastman said.

Despite the troubles, Eastman believes the reward of viewing the progress they make in their training and how well they are able to do activities on command is a reward that far outweigh the work it takes.         

Eastman’s friends have also quickly come to love Nolan. During the course of six months, they have been impressed with the training regimen, which is difficult work for both pet and owner.

 Bret Knudsten, one of Eastman’s friends,  recognizes the importance that comes along with fostering Nolan.

“He has a pretty big responsibility owning Nolan, because he has to get him ready to go help blind people, so he’s got to take care of him and get him prepared,” Knudsten said. “[It’s a] big responsibility.”

In another six months, Nolan will be tested to see if he has the skills required to officially become a guide dog for the blind.  The goal for Eastman is that Nolan will go on to help someone live a better life.

However, another one of Eastman’s friends, Tommy Brown, shares the feeling that it would be hard to say goodbye at the end of the training.

“I don’t know if I would want to have to get rid of the dog and give it to someone else,” Brown said.

 Yet, Brandon and the Eastman family hope to be able to continue training other dogs like Nolan in the future, once their time with Nolan ends.