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(photo credit: Courtesy)
At Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, there's a waiting list for students who want to raise a guide dog puppy. Every year, about 25 of the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind's puppies come to Beersheba to live with BGU students, attend classes, do everything and go everywhere the students go.
"For students, raising a guide dog puppy is perfect," one of the puppy parents, Gal Shtothaner, says. "Since most of us don't know where or how we'll be living in a year or two, having a puppy for just a year is great. Having a dog is expensive, too, but because the center supplies the puppies and pays for all the food and veterinary care, it's possible. Having a puppy in the house is fun, too."
Anat Landau and Noam Tirosh, both 26 and both students at BGU, raised Pepper, a handsome half-Lab, half-golden retriever. "Pepper was our first puppy," Landau says, adding that she and Tirosh, who plan to be married in June, subsequently raised two other puppies, Dora and Dinka. During the year Pepper was part of their household, Landau was a first-year student in physiotherapy. Pepper went along to all her classes.
When Pepper returned to the center for his final training, he excelled in everything. In August 2007, Pepper was paired with Maoz Chabob, 23, a blind student at Tel Aviv University. Chabob started having vision problems when he was just 12, and by the time he was 18, a combination of disease and trauma rendered him totally blind. "The possibility of a guide dog was raised while I was in rehabilitation in Jerusalem," Chabob says. "We made a trip to the center in Beit Oved, and I had a try with a dog. It was wonderful - I had no problem trusting the dog. We did fine right from the beginning. I knew that having a dog's help in getting around would be so much better than using a stick.
"At the center, they wanted me to try two different dogs. They were both great, but I really loved Pepper. They didn't tell me at first, but I was really hoping I'd get him. I was so happy when I realized he'd be mine. I did the center's short course, learning how to care for him and how to work with him. I stayed at the center for one week, then had two more weeks of training at my home in Hadera. After that we were alone - no problems. Pepper is just the best dog. I've always loved dogs and had a dog myself when I was younger. But now Pepper is my constant companion, 24 hours a day. He sleeps by my bed."
As it happens, puppy-raiser Anat Landau and blind student Maoz Chabob share more than just Pepper. At TAU Chabob also studies physiotherapy, so when the two finally met at the center, they had a lot to talk about. "I told him that if he had any questions about that first year in physiotherapy, he could just ask Pepper," Landau laughs. "He's been to every class!"
For more information: Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind, (08) 940-8213, www.israelguidedog.org.