Satchel was meant to be a guide dog for the blind, but after failing to pass muster, he made a career change. He became a dog that helped socialize other potential guide dog puppies.
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Satchel also socializes with children at libraries, listening to them read aloud, and with the elderly at retirement centers.
On Tuesday, April 2, the golden retriever-labrador mix, along with the help of the El Dorado 2nd Sight Puppy Raisers, will celebrate his 10th birthday at the El Dorado County Library in Cameron Park.
The birthday party aims to raise awareness for PAWS for Reading, a program that is part of Scholastic Books that allows children to read to dogs to gain confidence in reading, and the El Dorado 2nd Sight Puppy Raisers, a club that raises guide dog puppies and puts on a similar reading program at the El Dorado County Library in Placerville.
The party will give another “opportunity for kids to read to the dogs,” while celebrating, said Carolyn Reese, Satchel’s owner. She noted the librarians are excited and party hats have been bought.
The club, affiliated with Guide Dogs for the Blind, a nationwide organization; and with 4H; along with PAWS for Reading, organizes readings at the Cameron Park library every Tuesday from 4 to 5 p.m.
The Placerville library has readings the second and fourth Wednesday of the month from 4 to 5 p.m.
Both allow children to read to dogs for about 15 minutes, allowing the dogs to socialize and the children to gain confidence in reading.
Every Friday at 3:30 p.m., the club meets somewhere in El Dorado County, said main club leader Kim Burkhardt, depending on what is to be accomplished at the meeting.
Basic training and socialization are the two main goals of the club. There are 14 puppies in the program now, Burkhardt said, with “five or six under 6 months old.”
The puppies range from about 10 weeks old to 14 months old. Along with becoming guide dogs, many become certified as therapy dogs.
While the national organization, based in San Rafeal, is about 70 years old — founded to help war veterans who came home blind — the club has been in the county for 35 years.
The club is also associated with 4H, with “four girls raising guide dogs” as part of the club, said Burkhardt, who owns three dogs, including one guide dog and one career change dog.
For the other members, ages range from 9 years old to 89. The 89-year-old member is losing his sight, Burkhardt said, “and he’s training dogs to give back. He’s on his second dog.”
The club includes both puppies in training and career change dogs, who “show the other dogs what to do,” Reese said. “It gives them a chance to interact.”
Club members also “puppy sit” for each other, allowing even more interaction to “have as much experience as possible” for the puppies.
The dogs themselves are mostly Labradors, golden retrievers or “hybrids” — a mix of the two, Reese said. Though, when Guide Dogs for the Blind began, German shepherds were the dog of choice, she said. Satchel was the first hybrid in the club, Reese said. All of the dogs in the club, regardless of breed, were bred to be guide dogs.
Satchel’s birthday party will be held at the Cameron Park library at 2500 Country Club Drive, during the normal PAWS for Reading time.
Call the library at 530-621-5500 for more information or to reserve a future reading spot. The El Dorado County Library in Placerville can be reached at 530-621-5540 to reserve future reading spots.
For more information on the El Dorado 2nd Sight Puppy Raisers Club visit its Facebook page at facebook.com/ElDorado2ndSight.