Betty Rose, a two-month-old Golden Retriever mix, cuddled up to her new mentor just minutes after meeting the puppy raiser who will help her learn to be a guide dog for an individual who is blind or visually impaired.
“She’s adorable, she’s very sweet and cuddly,” said Nora Salet, who drove for an hour from her Vacaville home on Saturday to the national Guide Dogs for the Blind headquarters in San Rafael to meet Betty.
Needless to say, the guide-dog-in-training is named for the late actress Betty White, a longtime supporter of the organization.
“We had nearly a 40-year relationship with Betty,” said Christine Benninger, the organization’s president and chief executive. “She did PSAs for us and was a very generous donor.”
“The name comes not just from Betty, but from also giving a nod to Betty’s iconic character on The Golden Girls, Rose Nylund,” Benninger said.
Like all the puppy raisers, Salet will have Betty Rose for 15-17 months and then return her to Guide Dogs for further training.
“We like to refer to it that we have them through babyhood and elementary school and high school and they go away to college. We create the perfect puppy and they go back to do better things,” said Salet. Like all of the puppy raisers, she is a volunteer and receives no payment for mentoring Betty.
“We teach the house training, we teach her to relieve on command,” said Salet, who is clearly a puppy whisperer; this is the 18th dog she has helped with, and she also mentored Betty’s father.
Guide Dogs for the Blind is celebrating its 80th year in 2022, said Benninger. The organization is 100 percent funded by donations and has provided more than 16,000 guide dogs to visually impaired or blind individuals.
“That’s what makes it all worthwhile — knowing the dog will make a huge difference in someone’s life,” Salet said.
The puppy raisers teach the basics of socialization, taking them on public transit, to parties, even to work. Once the dogs have the basics down, they return to the Guide Dog facility for a 12-week training, which includes class time with the person they will be guiding.
Also, the organization pays for all the dogs’ veterinary costs, Benninger said. The overall lifelong cost of one guide dog is around $120,000, she said.
As Salet cradled Betty for the first time, the dog gave her newfound mentor an affectionate nudge with her nose.
“She’s really cute,” Salet said. “It’s pretty cool to have raised her dad and now his daughter.”