Ramblin’ on Four Legs
Ramblin' Puppy Raisers at Georgia Tech is one of the newest student organizations on campus. Established this fall, the group promotes awareness of service dogs and their training. Many members volunteer as puppy raisers or puppy sitters for Southeastern Guide Dogs, a nonprofit that provides guide dogs to people with visual impairments and service dogs to veterans at no cost.
Puppy raisers provide care, training, and socialization to a Southeastern Guide Dogs puppy for just over a year, until the puppy is ready for advanced training. Students volunteering as puppy sitters maintain the puppy's training when the raiser is not available. Guide dogs are matched with people from all walks of life, and Tech's student volunteers provide many experiences that help build a solid foundation for future guide dogs.
To date, club members have worked with five puppies on campus. The first, Indy, was raised by Anna Hart, fourth-year computer science student and president of Ramblin’ Puppy Raisers. Indy graduated earlier this year as a working guide dog. “I learned the love, patience, dedication, and community it takes to raise a puppy,” Hart said. “Indy took a piece of my heart with him when it was time to give him back, but it was worth it to see him go on to be an incredible, loving, and loyal guide dog and to see how much his handler loves him.”
Hart is currently raising Buzz, a 9-month-old female yellow lab. The Atlanta chapter of Southeastern Guide Dogs raised money to sponsor the pup, and named her in honor of the Ramblin’ Puppy Raisers. “She's learned to walk on a loose leash past all the bikes, scooters, and squirrels on campus,” Hart said, “as well as how to ride elevators and buses” — and all of these experiences are helping her learn.
Goodie was raised by students Sofi Soto and Taylor Van Horn and is now in advanced training at the Southeastern Guide Dogs campus in Palmetto, Florida. The other two puppies in training at Tech are a 6-month-old named Pomp, being raised by Alex Hool and Vania Deal, and a 5-month-old named Peyton, whose puppy raisers are Mazie Anderson and Angela Gomez.
Tech’s campus provides numerous opportunities for learning, from riding campus buses and walking through Tech Square to attending class. The puppies even get to venture off campus. Hart recalled Indy’s “favorite adventure” at the Georgia Aquarium, where he “stayed focused around all of the people and enjoyed calmly watching the fish, whales, and sharks.”
Goodie experienced tailgates on Yellow Jacket Alley, attended Ramblin’ On, and watched the Homecoming parade. He did so well relaxing in his Scheller College classes that his professor didn’t notice him until he got up to leave a lecture. He even walked with both of his raisers across the stage during Spring 2022 Commencement.
There is also a working guide dog, Brizzy, whose handler, Nola Timmins, is in the club. Brizzy graduated from Southeastern Guide Dogs in February 2020 and loves to keep up her training by attending meetings with the current puppies.
“I want to allow other students to experience the joy and community in raising a puppy,” Hart said, “and to fill the need for volunteers to provide experiences and foundational training for future guide and service dogs.”
Students interested in joining the club can contact Hart. For more information about supporting Southeastern Guide Dogs by volunteering, donating, or both, visit guidedogs.org. For a more detailed look at the work done by the organization, see their executive fact sheet.