If today’s teenager is to be selfish and lazy, one need not tell Hope Kindred. The Oakdale High School freshman missed that memo.
For the second consecutive school year Hope can be found on an Oakdale school campus with a Guide Dog in Training at her side. The 15-year-old first began this endeavor while an eighth grader at Oakdale Junior High School. It is a commitment which can only be executed with planning, as well as family support.
“It’s a family commitment,” Brenda Kindred, Hope’s mother said. “If I worked a 40 hour job we wouldn’t be able to do this.”
Yet with the support of her parents David and Brenda, and her profound love for animals, Hope welcomes the challenge.
“I’ve always been interested in service dogs and ways to help people,” she said.
She and her family joined forces with Stanislaus PAWS (Puppies Assisting With Sight) 4-H and went through the training, application process and home visit before receiving her first guide dog, Sheriff.
Hope currently takes Shania, a 7-month golden retriever/lab mix with her to school each day, as well as most other places she travels. The Kindred family also recently received a second puppy, TJ whom Hope will work with at home and begin taking to school with her in the fall.
“Some families like having one dog and then having a little break,” the student said of the puppy overlap. “This just calms them down. Five months is usually when they’re competent to go to school.”
Hope works with the dogs she receives from the ages of 8 weeks old until about 15 months when they are then returned back to Guide Dogs for the Blind of San Rafael.
“When they are recalled back to the school they go through an eight phase training program,” she stated. “There they are clicker trained. We kibble train.
“After eight phases they go on to two weeks with their client and then we all attend a graduation.”
The student trainer described the graduation as the most emotional and rewarding part of the training process.
“I think it’s amazing. The outcome,” she said. “When you go to graduation and you see a friend handing over their dog and you know it’s going to help someone. It’s the greatest thing ever.”
Yet it’s not all fun and games caring for and training a guide puppy. Hope considers her schedule on a regular basis, at times asking her parents for help with situations that may be too much for the puppies. They do attend school with her daily.
“The biggest challenge is with students who don’t respect the program,” she said. “They try to call her (Shania) over or throw things at her to distract her. I try to get her away from the situation as quick as possible. It gets hard and it does get stressful, but I get over it.”
She shared she intends on continuing to work with the dogs well into college, already giving thought as to how her parents can help with the introductory phase before bringing the animal to her at college.
Hope has aspirations of being a film director once she completes her education. Right now, she said it is working with animals that brings her joy and pride.
“Knowing that you can help someone. I just like that feeling,” she said. “It’s such a great program. It opens your eyes to new things. It’s the most amazing community service. I just love it.”