Published June 03. 2010 11:35AM
Old Lyme - This is when Janet Cody is most grateful for the help her children and young neighbors can provide - when all eyes must stay on all puppies at all times.
"They're just like babies, you can't leave them alone with anything," Cody says.
Cody, a volunteer with Guiding Eyes for the Blind, has spent the month of May caring for a litter of five Guiding Eyes puppies, now 5.5 weeks old. The puppies will return to Guiding Eyes on June 3, at which point they'll be individually assessed for their potential to become guide dogs.
The German shepherd puppies are at this stage playful, curious, and surprisingly fast. More than once, Cody relies on daughter Kristen Cody, a recent college graduate, and her friend Rachel Kurzweil to scoop up the puppies that escape to the driveway and bring them back to Cody's backyard.
Cody's best helpers include neighbors Aidan O'Donnell and Abigail Cipparone, 12, who used to take piano lessons from Cody. Abigail has been helping Cody care for puppies since Cody raised her very first Guiding Eyes litter three years ago.
Abigail says she enjoys helping train the puppies and "seeing them learn new things."
"They'd go up the stairs and go, 'Oh! How'd I get up here?'" Abigail says.
Abigail still remembers the names of most of the puppies in Cody's first litter and is adept at handling the squirmy bunch before her now. She holds still an uncooperative pup in order to get a harness on it as practice for the harness the puppy will wear as a guide dog.
Cody doesn't have harnesses for all the puppies, so some get strips of fabric tied around their bellies.
Abigail also encourages the puppies to check out new items in the backyard - a bicycle, a kiddie pool - and play with an abundance of squeaky toys.
The neighborhood kids are great for puppy training because they have energy, and they'll do things Cody won't think to do, like lie at the top of the stairs and coax the puppies to come to them.
"The kids just think about doing things differently," she says.
Cody's son Sean will spin a football like a top, and when Kristen came home from college last weekend, she started crowing at the puppies, Cody says.
All those are good ways to introduce the puppies to foreign elements and build their confidence level, Cody says.
Next week: Cody and her neighbors spend one last day with the puppies, who go back to Guiding Eyes for the Blind on June 3.