What a Treat, Senior Trains Future Guide Dog

By Fiona Asbury, Editor In Chief

When senior AJ Beauregard goes home after a long day of school, he is greeted by an energetic puppy. However, this 4-month-old yellow lab is a little different from most CHS students’ pets. Meet Yahoo.
Last month, Yahoo joined the Beauregard family as a part of her first 14 months of service dog training from the New York-based Guiding Eyes for the Blind organization. She came with her name from the breeder where the dogs are named alphabetically; she was letter “Y.”
“My aunt was involved in the same program, so my family decided to do it as well,” Beauregard said.
According to the Guiding Eyes for the Blind website, the nonprofit organization provides guide dogs to people with vision loss and children with autism. The volunteer puppy raisers save the organization the time and money required to provide puppies with basic training.
According to the Project Chance website, which is another organization that seeks to provide service dogs to children with autism, service dogs offer emotional support to those with autism and help ease their sensory overload.
Regardless of the path Yahoo takes, she will be benefitting the life of someone in need, and AJ will have played a monumental role in her service.
“It’s very rewarding because it is not only awesome just having a puppy, but also knowing it will go to a good cause too,” Beauregard said.
As the Yahoo’s primary raiser, Beauregard attended three classes to learn how to raise and train her before her arrival. Now, Beauregard attends one class a week to guide his training. Prior to these classes, Beauregard had no experience raising a service dog.
“I teach her not to chase things she finds interesting, how to be well-mannered, house manners, how to sit with a blind person (between their legs), how to ride in a car and basic ‘sit’ and ‘down’ commands,” Beauregard said.
Yahoo is always training, though she does get time to play. Beauregard and his family are constantly watching her, making sure that she isn’t doing anything she shouldn’t. However, when Yahoo dons her blue vest, she is preparing for life as a guide dog.
“When she wears her vest, she is working,” Beauregard said. “If you want to pet her, I take the vest off.”
Since Yahoo will potentially accompany a vision-impaired person everywhere, Beauregard takes her out in public three to four times a week to socialize her. Her special status allows AJ to take her inside places a dog would not normally be allowed, such as Chipotle.
“I haven’t talked to anyone about bringing her to school [during the school day] with me,” Beauregard said. “I might look into it, but it would be pretty difficult with everyone wanting to meet her.”
While his time with Yahoo has only just begun, the next phase of her training is still at the back of his mind. After leaving the Beauregard’s, Yahoo will go back to New York where she will receive much stricter training from professionals, and will eventually serve someone who needs her.
“It’s all up to the person she is ultimately placed with whether I can see her again or not,” Beauregard said. “Some of the blind people are very open to letting you visit the dog, others are not. It’s going to be very rough saying goodbye, but I know it’s coming, so I can prepare for it. She’s awesome.”