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Affinities: Dog Is Their Copilot

Graduation day for guide dogs in San Rafael.

SLIDESHOW

Derek Coates and Afton

(1 of 10)

Jane Flower and Anja

(4 of 10)

Elizabeth Greenberg and Anna

(3 of 10)

Teresa Brenner and Lane 

(2 of 10)

John Vickers and Yankee

(5 of 10)

Matthew Easton and Lilia

(6 of 10)

Brian Ralston and Rory

(7 of 10)

Ansel Davis and Everett

(8 of 10)

Theresa Stern and Wills

(9 of 10)

Joseph Galante and Lundy

(10 of 10)

 

See all the Affinities photo shoots here.

Every other Saturday at a leafy campus in Marin, a new class of graduates crosses the stage and officially enters into one of the most important of careers: guide dog for the visually impaired.

“Our dogs offer confidence, independence, and the ability to traverse the world—when you give someone a guide dog, you are really giving them their life,” says Chris Benninger, president and CEO of Guide Dogs for the Blind, a 75-year-old nonprofit in San Rafael that trains and places dogs at no cost to the recipient. The dogs are born on campus and start their training almost immediately. At around eight weeks old, the puppies are sent to live with a “puppy raiser” for approximately one year, during which time they accompany their companion everywhere, from work to church to restaurants, getting used to the round-the-clock guide job. Then it’s back to campus for 14 weeks of finishing school.

Graduation day, which is open to the public, is the bittersweet, always tearful handoff from puppy raiser to visually impaired owner—10 of whom are pictured here with their dogs.

 

Originally published in the March issue of San Francisco

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