Guide Dogs Get Their Day at Brookhaven Lab

Early in May, 20 puppies-in-training (with their handlers) from the Smithtown Guide Dog Foundation (GDF) visited the Lab as part of their training program.

Among the special pups and handlers were Brookhaven Lab attorney Anne Troutman and her son Andrew.  The Troutmans are currently training a black Labrador puppy named Hera.  

“Being new to Long Island my family was looking for something special to do,” said Troutman. “Volunteering as a trainer for this beautiful dog was definitely the best decision we could have made.  We’ve met so many nice people and we know that we are doing something meaningful for the visually impaired person who will be lucky to call Hera their own in a few months. The entire experience has been extraordinary.”

Troutman said that she and Andrew attend monthly training courses at GDF and have received a lot of support from GDF personnel and other volunteers. After 12 to 18 months, the puppy is evaluated to determine if and when the dog will be placed with a visually impaired person. The GDF works tirelessly to find complementary personalities between the new owner and his or her guide dog. 

This visit to the Laboratory, led by Security Police Officer Brian Buckheit of the Laboratory Protection Division, welcomed the most dogs to ever visit the Lab at one time.

“The GDF was thrilled when I contacted them about the possibility of another visit,” said Buckheit. “We have partnered with them before as the Lab provides a controlled venue to teach the puppies to cross the street, use stairways, and interact with people, all important steps of their training process. The expressions on the faces of employees who are interacting with the dogs certainly made the effort worthwhile.”

Buckheit is correct. A group of employees from around the site showed up in the lobby of Building 400 and anxiously awaited the arrival of the puppies — yellow and black labs, poodles, shepherds, and golden retrievers — just for the chance to interact with them. 

“The experience has been terrific,” added Troutman. “It will be bittersweet to say goodbye to Hera when she graduates and gets placed, but I know she will certainly improve the life of a visually impaired person. This special dog definitely has a lot of love to give.”

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