Giving the gift of sight

Hannah Burk, sophomore, works to train dogs for the blind


Instead of spending her spare time watching movies and going shopping, Hannah Burk, sophomore, trains guide dogs. She has worked with Guide Dogs for the Blind for the past four and a half years and plans to continue with her work for the next two and a half years. Photo courtesy of Hannah Burk.

After a long day at school, teenagers are ready to get home, sit on the couch and rest. However, for Hannah Burk, sophomore, there is someone else she has to take care of before she can zone out for the day. Burk comes home to a puppy waiting for her attention. For the past four and a half years, Burk has worked with Guide Dogs for the Blind training puppies who will eventually serve as guide dogs.

“I met someone at church with a guide dog and I just asked her about it,” Burk said.

Burk joined the program and she has already trained three dogs. Her role is to train the dogs as puppies and teach them basic commands such as “sit” and “stay” as well as work on socializing them. After 14 months of work, Burk then sends them to receive the rest of their final training through the program.

“It can be frustrating training the puppies because they don’t understand what you’re saying,” Burk said. “In the end, though, it’s always hard to give them up.”

When Burk is working with a dog, it lives with her. Because of this, Burk is always working. On top of the training and taking care of the puppy’s needs, Burk also attends weekly meetings with other puppies in the program and their trainers.

“It’s almost like having a child,” Burk said.

Although Burk is the one doing the training, she feels like the dogs are also training her. Since she started working with dogs Burk feels that she has gotten better at talking to strangers.

“A lot of people approach me and ask about [the dogs],” Burk said. “I’ve gotten used to having conversations with people I’ve never met before.”

Burk is currently working with a black lab puppy named Titan. She loves working with puppies, but she only plans to work with them throughout high school while she has the ease of living at home.

Even though training puppies is a lot of work and she has to give them up in the end, Burk knows that the final result is worth it all.

“It’s amazing how much you can impact someone,” Burk said. “You’re practically giving people the amazing gift of sight.”