MARIN COUNTY (CBS SF) — As our population ages, more individuals will be diagnosed with vision problems, including blindness, low vision or diabetic retinopathy.
One of our San Francisco Giants ballplayers wants to lend a hand and help. He’s developed a connection to a very special four-legged friend whose only goal is to help those who are having serious problems with their vision.
Meet puppy Crawford, a Rookie MVP for Marin County’s Guide Dogs for the Blind.
“He’s about 15-months-old, and a puppy guide dog in training,” explained his handler 17-year-old Sophia Mesches from Modesto.
There’s no coincidence that puppy Crawford shares a name with Brandon Crawford, shortstop for the San Francisco Giants.
“When I first met him he was just a few weeks to maybe a month old,” said the ballplayer.
Last year, Brandon and his family visited the campus for Guide Dogs for the Blind, and came away impressed. Brandon actually went through a training drill with one of their highly skilled guide dogs.
“I put on a blindfold on and was lead by a dog around the whole campus and it’s amazing how well these dogs are trained. It was a really cool experience,” he said.
The ballplayer then stepped up the plate and decided to sponsor a new puppy-in-training by lending his name and introducing Giants fans to the largest guide dog school in the nation.
Sierra Fish is senior marketing consultant for Guide Dogs for the Blind. She says since Crawford got involved with raising the profile of the school, Giants fans have flocked to their social media sites and sought opportunities to both donate and volunteer their time and effort.
“All of our services are provided free of charge and we rely solely on these private donations to really make our mission possible,” explained Fish.
Just like in baseball, training a guide dog is a team effort. A new puppy needs a volunteer home. That’s how the Mesches Family got involved. Sophia volunteered to teach puppy Crawford good manners and basic obedience. It helps that the Mesches are also big Giants fans. Puppy Crawford has attended a number of games.
However, now it is time for the 15-month-old puppy to return to the school for more advanced, intensive training.
Sophia will miss her best friend, but is philosophical.
“I love him a lot but in the end it’s going to be a lot better for him to be working with somebody who really needs him,” said the recent high school graduate.
“It’s impressive just how trained he is now,” Brandon said of his little namesake.
And just like in baseball, with guide dogs, only one thing counts for the individual: getting home safely.
“That’s what we hope our dogs will do is get them where they’re going, and do it safely so they can live an independent life,” said Sophia.
Guide Dogs for the Blind has been around for almost 75 years. Since the school was founded in 1942, trainers have graduated 12,500 guide dog teams. Currently there are 2,200 highly trained dogs matched with individuals who are blind or have low vision.
For more information, visit their website.