- Category: Volume 87 (Fall 2015 - Spring 2016)
- Published: 06 April 2016
- Written by LAUREN NIESZ | HEAD COPY EDITOR
It’s early in the morning and little paws are running around the backyard and being walked down the street in preparation for a long day ahead. These little paws belong to Seeing Eye dog in training, Lisa Kretsch.
Lisa needs plenty of activity in the morning if she will be spending the day at the University with her trainer, Chair of the Computer Science and Software Engineering Department, Jamie Kretsch. Her next few morning routine steps include breakfast, picking a Seeing Eye vest or scarf, and saying goodbye to her brother Buddy and sister Enya at home.
When at the University, she recognizes many faces of her “special friends” on campus, including many people from the Computer Science and Software Engineering Department, the Math Department, and First Year Advising.
Lisa is currently 11 months old and will be staying with Kretsch until she is one year old; Kretsch has plenty of experience in training dogs for The Seeing Eye; Lisa is the fourth dog that Kretsch has raised for the cause. Kretsch is a leader for the Monmouth County Seeing Eye Club and has been a participant in puppy raising for the society since 2003.
Being that Kretsch has been exposed to many different dogs in training and is in contact with canine graduates of the program, it is safe to say that when she says that Lisa’s progress is beautiful, we can take her word for it.
“She handles everything with utmost poise and dignity; she’s amazing,” Kretsch gushed about Lisa’s progress. “Lisa is gentle and seems to understand what appropriate behavior would be necessary for where she is,” continued Kretsch.
She further explained that when Lisa is at home and sees a familiar face she allows herself to get excited and go right up to her friends, but when she is at “work” at the University, friendly faces are greeted with a tail wag — a professional reaction. She is able to delineate between work and home, which is an outstanding trait.
The University seems to be one of Lisa’s favorite places. “Lisa loves coming to campus…she loves being in the classroom, where she usually sprawls in the back near my instructor’s podium [during class],” said Kretsch. “She loves the Student Center because there are so many students around…she wags her tail until they [students] greet her.”
Lisa is a “people dog;” her favorite places are where she can come in contact with the most people and make new friends.
Madelyn Arecchi, an English and education student who works in First Year Advising and is in frequent contact with Lisa, said, “I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Lisa in First Year Advising and she always brightens everyone’s day. I admire Professor Kretsch for training Lisa and other Seeing Eye dogs.”
Kretsch said that she doesn’t see many students without a smile on their faces when they see Lisa. Every time Lisa is on campus, someone will bend down to hug her and exclaim, “This is exactly what I needed.”
These potential new friends that Lisa sees are just as happy to see her as she is to see them. Kretsch explained, “Everybody loves the idea that she is being raised for The Seeing Eye and for this bigger purpose.”
Callie VanWallendael, a social work student at the University that has a seeing eye dog on campus, Misty, said of her guide dog, “Misty has always been there for me. When I’m having a hard or bad day, I can just pet her and that usually gets her to kiss me. Misty loves me unconditionally, and that really helps when I’m having a bad day.”
She continued, “One thing I want students to realize about Misty is [that] she’s there to help me, but don’t hesitate to come up and talk to me.”
Guide dogs are assigned to people in order to help him/her get around, but also make affectionate and wonderful companions. They may be working when they have their harnesses on, but that should not deter anyone from talking to the person with the dog.
We can learn a lot from Lisa about The Seeing Eye and from this journey that she is taking. “Monmouth can learn that sometimes we have to do tough things for a good reason to benefit others. We can’t be selfish,” said Kretsch, who got emotional thinking about the process.
Kretsch’s strength and selflessness are traits that a raiser for The Seeing Eye must have in order to participate in such a difficult, yet necessary task. It truly takes a special person, such as Kretsch, to do such a service.
Through her emotion, Kretsch was able to say, “You raise them, you housebreak them, you teach them right from wrong, you teach them to respond to love — so, this puppy does things for me because she knows I love her and for the praise I give her; she doesn’t get treats as a reward, she just gets my love, and she knows that.”
Lisa’s reception to people and responsiveness to love are pivotal in her training and she shows that she is very capable of all things asked of her.
“I know what we did is going to change the most important part of someone’s life; she’s going to be someone’s eyes. She is going to let somebody do something that they wouldn’t be able to do,” explained Kretsch.
Lisa’s journey growing up at the University has been a joy for students, faculty, and staff alike to witness. It is fitting that such an extraordinary dog walks such an extraordinary campus. Kretsch would like to extend appreciation to the University on behalf of herself and The Seeing Eye that the dogs are welcome with open arms on campus.
PHOTOS COURTESY of Lauren Niesz