ROGERS CITY - Students in Rogers City schools had a special visitor Friday as Anchor, the future guide dog for the blind, came through town with his trainer from downstate.
After visiting students at Rogers City Elementary and St. Ignatius, Anchor got to say "hi" to fourth- and fifth-graders at St. John Lutheran School Friday afternoon. Ray Ziegler of Southgate is training Anchor for the first year of his life, and explained to the students what he does as a volunteer raiser.
"Anchor is learning to do everything on a leash," Ziegler said.
News Photo by Jordan Travis
St. John Lutheran School fourth-grader Sydney Paull pets Anchor, the future guide dog for the blind, on Friday afternoon as trainer Ray Ziegler explains what goes into raising the dog for its first year.
The nine-week-old dog's training began almost immediately after he was born.
Anchor is Ziegler's fourth dog he has trained. His main task is to socialize the dogs before their formal training at Leader Dogs for the Blind in Rochester Hills. This includes bringing him nearly everywhere Ziegler goes so he gets used to being around lots of people.
It's not always easy. Passers-by, mostly adults, want to pet and play with Anchor, Ziegler said. He has to politely but firmly ask them to stop, as he's trying to teach the dog to stay focused and not be distracted by strangers.
"Remember, if you see a dog with a cape on, leave it be," he told the students.
Unlike other dogs, Anchor won't learn any tricks or play fetch, Ziegler said. In fact, he's learning that as long as he has a handkerchief or cape on, he's on duty and needs to act like it.
It's hard to give the dogs up at the end of the year, Ziegler said, but he takes much satisfaction from being able to help out the blind.
"Imagine if you're blind and stuck in the house," he said to the students. "Now, when they get this dog, he gives them independence."
Members of the Rogers City Lions Club were also at the school. The club donated $530 to sponsor Anchor's training at the institute downstate. Club President Dennis Downie said Ziegler had called him wondering if the club would be willing to sponsor Anchor.
"Being the dog lover that I am, it wasn't a hard sell for me," Downie said.
The club picked the name Anchor in order to stick with the Nautical City theme.
Ziegler explained that Leader Dogs for the Blind was started by Lions Clubs in the Detroit area when they discovered the long wait time needed to obtain a guide dog for blind people. He and around 12 others volunteer to raise the dogs for their first year before they go through an extensive training process at the institute. If they pass, they go to a blind person in need of one, free of charge.
Anchor will make an appearance at Nautical Fest, Ziegler said, and anyone interested in watching his progress can visit his blog at blog.modelaaford.com.
Jordan Travis can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5688.