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11 Year-Old Boy Trains Seeing Eye Dog

11 year old boy raises seeing eye dog

By: Marina Barnett

February 8, 2017

SHIPPENSBURG– Shippensburg University has been training ground for seeing eye dogs for years thanks to Dr. Andrea Malmont in the education department. She’s been raising seeing eye puppies for The Seeing Eye in Morristown, New Jersey for ten years now and is currently training two puppies.


Dr. Andrea Malmont with her two puppies in training, Eclipse and Skiba


Education Department Secretary, Danielle Surotchak, brought her now eleven-year-old son, Joe, and two-year-old daughter in to visit Dr. Malmont’s last puppy and Joe instantly clicked with it. His mom recalls the encounter, “Whenever she got Skiba I brought the kids in to visit and Joe says, ‘Oh, I wish I was old enough.’ And they said, ‘Well how old are you?’ And he said, ‘Ten.’ And the rest is history.”


Joe Surotchak with his mom, Danielle and their puppy in training Burt.


Dr. Malmont thought it was a great opportunity for Joe to build up confidence, “The nice thing is that The Seeing Eye has partnered with 4H so it  becomes a child that’s raising the seeing eye dog, and I think that is a really good program because someone like him or other children who need to have their confidence built up, it’s a really great platform.”

Joe is now training his first puppy, a four-month-old yellow lab named Burt. All of the puppy responsibilities are his– feeding, playing, and even cleaning up messes. He knows that after sixteen months they will have to give Burt back to The Seeing Eye so that he can go on to a trainer to learn skills and eventually be placed as a breeding dog or with his “perfect match.”

The Surotchaks will have one more opportunity to see Burt once he goes back to New Jersey at a “Town Walk” where the dogs demonstrate the skills they’ve learned with their new trainers. However, the family cannot approach the dog, they can only watch from afar. “I think that will be the hardest part. Being so close, but so far,” Danielle says of the “Town Walk.”

After the “Town Walk” families wait for a letter informing them where their puppies have gone. If they’ve been placed with their “perfect match” they will get a picture of the puppy in the Seeing Eye harness and information about their new owner. Dr. Malmont says that is one of the most rewarding parts of the process, “That is the last piece when you get that letter and that picture, you know they’re off doing great things.”


The Surotchaks plan to continue in Dr. Malmont’s footsteps and raise more dogs once Burt has moved on. Danielle says, “As long as my son wants to do it, we will do it.”

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