Chemistry professor Carol Parish established a sub-chapter of Richmond's Guiding Eyes for the Blind on campus this spring, with official sponsorship of the university.
The university's new sub-chapter has 20 student members and will start raising two puppies this coming fall semester, she said. The club members completed orientation classes this spring and are all qualified to raise dogs for Guiding Eyes for the Blind, Parish said.
Another orientation class will be taught during the first week of the fall 2013 semester, Parish said. She hopes that new first-year students and current students who did not have ample time this semester will join the club, she said.
Two students from the university's sub-chapter, Chris Silvey and Claire Goelst, will raise dogs in the University Forest Apartments this coming fall, Parish said. All other club members will help walk and watch the dogs.
"The dogs are a lot of work, but there is also a ton of return and enjoyment that comes from it," Parish said.
In collaboration with the Richmond chapter of Guiding Eyes for the Blind, the club will show the documentary film "Four More Feet" at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 18. The film will be shown in the Adams Theater in the Boatwright Memorial Library, and admission will be free to Richmond students but $5 to others.
The film is about a man named Randy Pierce who became blind when he was in his mid-30s. Pierce challenged himself to climb 48 peaks - more than 4,000 feet - in New Hampshire, with help from his friends and his guide dog, Quinn, Parish said.
Anyone who is interested in the outdoors, dogs and disability rights will enjoy this movie, she said. Guiding Eyes for the Blind provides veterinary care for its dogs, but this film showing is a fundraiser to help students offset their own food and toy costs for the dogs, Parish said.
Silvey contacted Parish last year when he was a freshman to discuss the possibility of bringing a sub-chapter to the university. He participated in a similar service-dog community group in high school, so during his first year at Richmond, he frequently walked Parish's first guide dog.
When Silvey approached about starting a sub-chapter on campus, Parish and her husband, chemistry senior visiting research scholar Marty Zeldin, saw an opportunity to make a greater impact, she said.
Silvey and Goelst's dogs will need to be walked for one mile each day, Silvey said. The distance can be split up across multiple walks, and all club members will help out when the designated dog-raisers have other commitments, he said.
Training a guide dog is a full-time process whereby the owners must constantly observe and reward the dog's good behavior to form positive associations, Silvey said. "Not a moment is passed where you are not training the dog," he said, "because what you do and what you don't do influences how the dog behaves."
The two campus dogs will be born in May and raised by a Guiding Eyes for the Blind sitter for most of the summer, Silvey said.
Silvey hopes the program will continue and expand in future years, he said. He would like to come back to campus after he graduates and see a larger group of students raising more dogs.
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