Puppies on a plane: 'Seeing Eye' dogs train at Philadelphia International Airport

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Saturday, November 4, 2023
'The Seeing Eye' dogs train at Philadelphia International Airport
Volunteers with 'The Seeing Eye' work hard to prepare puppies to grow up into dutiful guide dogs for people with visual impairments.

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- It was a painful experience in 2009 when Nancy Mittleman's 15-year-old Labrador Retriever passed away. But that same week, while attending church, she was introduced to the Seeing Eye Puppy Raisers of Gloucester County.

Mittleman, now the club leader, volunteers her time to train future guide dogs as part of The Seeing Eye nonprofit.

Her current partner is 7-month-old Ulysses, a German Shepherd.

"The hope is that he is raised by a puppy raiser like me and then trained by an instructor at The Seeing Eye to provide independence and dignity to a blind individual through the use of a trained guide dog," said Mittleman.

Part of that process is taking dogs to public settings such as doctor's appointments, movie theaters, and bowling alleys to become acclimated to the sights and sounds.

That explains why roughly 30 dogs were parading through Philadelphia International Airport today.

"We have an accessibility program, so we're always trying to be helpful with anyone that needs assistance," said Leah Douglas, the airport's Director of Guest Experience. "So, this is a great way to give back a little bit and aid all those wonderful volunteers."

Puppies and their partners went through a security check, walked throughout various terminals, and boarded a Frontier Airlines plane to get a taste of the travel experience.

Mittleman said Ulysses did a great job.

"A little nervous, I think, at first going down the aisle with so many dogs and so many distractions," she said. "But once he was in his place, he settled down very nicely."

After about a year of training, the hope is for dogs like Ulysses to grow up and be placed with a companion with visual impairments.

To learn more about The Seeing Eye and how to get involved, visit their website.

For information about traveling with pets at Philadelphia International Airport, visit their website.

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