LeaderDogJeanine Montgomery, Maryville, is training a puppy for Leader Dogs for the Blind.

Leader Dogs for the Blind, Rochester Hills, MI, raises and trains dogs for blind and visually impaired individuals. The business raises 500 puppies a year and places 250 of them with clients annually.

Montgomery, a member of the Maryville Pride Lions Club, became interested in becoming a puppy trainer after a club visit from Phyllis and Phil Krebs, Lions from Springfield. Phyllis, a Maryville native, visited to garner support for Leader Dogs for the Blind. The Krebs are training their seventh puppy for the program.

“I was inspired,” Montgomery said. “But, it took me several years to decide to actually do it. I was struggling with the heartbreak of having to return the puppy after bonding with it.

“Phyllis also helped me with that, reminding me of the greater good and the blessing the puppy will be someday to a blind or sight-impaired person, hopefully. Not all puppies get placed with a client.”

Montgomery applied to be a trainer in 2015. After submitting documentation about her own pets, her application was approved six months later. Then the wait started. Because Montgomey lives so far from the facility, she just received a female, yellow lab in August to be returned in the summer of 2017.

Montgomery named the dog, Charae, which means beautiful.

“Leader Dog wants us to socialize the puppy,” Montgomery explained. “So, we are supposed to take the puppy almost everywhere we go. So far, I have received very positive reactions and comments from the public. Of course, the cuteness of her helps. How she reacts to the public and the public reacts to her is also part of her training.”

Trainers must commit at least one year to training their puppy. There’s also a monetary commitment. Trainers are responsible for purchasing food, toys, collars, leashes and veterinary care for their puppy.

Trainers receive support from Leader Dog counselors who arrange monthly events and provide information on care, training and manners. Montgomery attends these events by Skype.

“There are some very strict rules for these puppies,” she said. “They can only have certain kinds of toys, aren’t allowed to act certain ways, have special diets, must sleep in a kennel and learn to ride in a vehicle a certain way. It’s an adventure.”