Chariho teen training guide dog for the blind this summer
A Chariho eighth-grader is now undertaking a huge project while in quarantine, volunteering to train a future guide dog for the blind full-time.
Gabrielle Macaruso, 14, first heard about the New York non-profit, Guiding Eyes for the Blind, from her mother, who works at URI, and is also a school committee member.
The university has a ‘Puppy Raisers’ program tied with the organization.
The eight-week-old yellow lab named Citron came to the Ashaway teen’s home at the end of May and training began immediately.
“We have to train her all the time. She’s always in training. She never gets a break,” Macaruso said. “And it’s been pretty easy. She’s very smart. She picks it up very quickly.”
Macaruso first applied in April and had to take an intensive five-hour virtual course to get her ready to train Citron.
“How to train her and what to do. It was extensive training for me,” she said.
Virtual learning at school has been going well for Macaruso, although she said she misses her friends, and having sports canceled left her with a lot of free time to give back to the community.
“It feels good. It feels like I’m doing good for the community while getting someone to love during the quarantine,” Macaruso said.
Macaruso will have the dog for the rest of the summer, working on things such as house and food manners, before Citron moves on with the rest of her training.
“I know it’s going to be hard eventually when she does have to leave but I know she’s going on to do important work so that helps,” Macaruso said.
If all goes well, Macaruso hopes to be at Citron’s graduation where she will be paired with a blind person needing a companion.
“I’m going to be very proud of her. She’s very good. Well, I’ll know that I helped. Helped something important,” she said.
Macaruso said the entire process of training a guide dog for the blind takes about a year.