Chelsea Rea gets some funny looks as she leads Lennoxx on a leash through Lodi High School's bustling halls.
Students are busy talking about their weekend plans or who's dating whom shutting metal lockers here and there as they move from one class to the next.
But Lennoxx isn't fazed. This four-legged, two-days-a-week student has a nap waiting for him during English.
In one of the more unique senior projects this year, Rea brings hers to school every day.
Lennoxx is being trained to become a guide dog for the blind. If successful, the golden retriever could be paired with someone in under two years.
"Not only are you helping someone out, but you're having a good time doing it," said Rea who has her own golden retriever at home. In addition to acclimating the dog to noise at school and during visits to Lodi Stadium 12 and Raley's, Rea has to attend weekly training classes.
She has taught Lennoxx basic commands like sit, stay and "that's enough" in case he gets too hyper.
Lennoxx actually lives with Russ Bryan and his family. The sophomore's mother has been raising guide dogs since she was a teen, he said.
The dog typically sleeps at Bryan's house, but has stayed at Rea's for extended periods of time, as well. Lennoxx usually attends Lodi High on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
For Rea's senior project, she's focusing on the doggie dos and don'ts of raising a guide animal: Do make sure he's always at your side instead of in front and don't let him jump up onto people.
"I thought if I got a guide dog, I'd get a puppy," Rea said of her decision to sign up. "But I always want to try new experiences."
At just over a year old, Lennoxx may still be a puppy, depending on who you ask. But he's basically full-grown in size and is known to take up a substantial space under Rea's desk.
She said the hardest part of having him with her on campus is so many of her peers want to pet the dog.
"They freak out because he's here, although they have dogs at home," she said.
But what about when Lennoxx needs to, well, you know?
Rea said he has a routine; following second period, she takes him out to the soccer field where he can do his thing. Then, he doesn't need to go again until school's out for the day.
Upon graduation, Rea plans on attending Cosumnes River College for her pre-veterinarian coursework, then transferring to University of California, Davis or Texas A&M for vet school.
Until then, the senior will care for Lennoxx two days a week. "He's fun to have around," she said.
When she talks about him, she gazes at the dog like he's her child and words can't express her pride in him. "He does awesome."
What are the requirements to become a guide dog puppy raiser?
- As a potential puppy raiser, you will join a local puppy
raising club and attend preliminary club meetings. Once you receive
your pup, you will need to continue to attend regularly-scheduled
club meetings and outings.
- You will need to submit completed puppy raising applications,
available through your club's puppy raising leader.
- All members of your household must be committed to raising a
- You can be an adult or a youngster, but you have to be at least
9 years old.
- Your home must provide a safe and secure living
- You need to be available to supervise a young puppy throughout
- Your puppy must be on leash when not in a secure
- There must be a compatible relationship with other pets in your
- Your puppy must sleep indoors.
- You must be committed to providing daily exercise and
- You are responsible for some expenses, including food and
incidentals. These expenses may be tax-deductible, depending on
your state tax laws.
- You must use guide dog approved training and management
techniques when working with your puppy.
- You need to be willing to travel to meet with guide dog
representatives for evaluation of your puppy's progress and/or
attend training workshops.
- You must be a positive representative of Guide Dogs for the
Blind within your community.
- You are required to release the puppy back to Guide Dogs for
the Blind at their request.
For more information, call the Canine Community Programs office at Guide Dogs for the Blind at (800) 295-4050 to be put in touch with a local representative.
Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.