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This inspiring program was one of the first in the nation to link tiny puppies, young schoolchildren, and seniors with giving hearts in a partnership to raise guide dogs for deserving individuals. The program came to life at
Atlantic Shores, an energetic 100-acre retirement community in
Virginia Beach, Virginia, which embraced their smallest residents, two black Labrador puppies, on
October 27, 2011.
In partnership with
Guiding Eyes For The Blind, an internationally-accredited, nonprofit guide dog school, specially selected puppies, "Joanie" and "Godrick" were matched with Atlantic Shores residents and staff, who opened their homes and hearts to raise the puppies during a critical time in their lives.
"Puppy Love Program" also included partnerships with local elementary schools, where special curriculum helped students understand the invaluable service these puppies will provide, and how to properly interact with guide dogs they see in the community.
While living at Atlantic Shores, the puppies became integrated into the dog-friendly senior campus, with the puppies attending such resident activities as Arts & Crafts, and unique events like "Yappy Hours" with special treats for both human and canine residents. The puppies also brightened spirits with visits to the community's Harbourway assisted living facility, Seaside skilled nursing center, and Memory Care Unit.
"Puppy Love fans" from around the world followed the progress of these canine heroes at
www.atlanticshoresliving.com/puppy_love, where a Dog-Blog tracked the puppies' adventures. The program also won a Silver "Stevie Award" by the American Business Awards for Community Relations Campaign of the Year.
After almost 16 months of training and love, the "full-size" puppies were returned to Guiding Eyes to identify their unique skills, and further train them to be the perfect companion for a deserving individual, or the career best suited to them.