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The Web is “Going to the Dogs”

New Video Starring Guide Dog Puppy from Atlantic Shores Retirement Community

What has four paws, boundless energy, and a cute story to tell about an amazing future helping visually impaired people to live a full life? A black lab puppy named Joanie, who is starring in a video chronicling her adventures as part of The Atlantic Shores/Guiding Eyes For The Blind “Puppy Love Program.”

A Day in the Life of Joanie” video is becoming an internet sensation. Featuring shots from the puppy’s point of view, the hilarious video chronicles Joanie’s adventures, from her “rock star” arrival bash at Atlantic Shores, and training classes and shopping trips with her raiser Linda Palminteri, to school field trips, and socializing over treats at special “Yappy Hours.”

Joanie also co-stars with her fellow guide-dog-in-training Godrick on their own Dog Blog, where Puppy Love fans from around the world can follow the progress of these tiny heroes. Fans can also like them on Facebook:

The Puppy Love Program is one of the first in the nation to bring together tiny puppies, young schoolchildren, and seniors with giving hearts in a partnership that will ultimately provide guide dogs matched to deserving individuals. The program was designed and came to life at Atlantic Shores, an energetic 100-acre retirement community in Virginia Beach, Virginia, which has embraced their newest, smallest residents — Joanie and Godrick.

These specially selected black Labrador puppies were matched with Atlantic Shores resident raisers, who along with a support team of fellow residents and Atlantic Shores staff, have opened their homes and hearts to raise and train them during a critical time in their lives.

This unique project is a partnership with Guiding Eyes For The Blind, an internationally accredited, nonprofit guide dog school with a 50-year legacy of providing the blind and visually impaired with superior Guiding Eyes dogs and lifetime support services, for free. This inspiring organization relies on volunteers for the critical first step of basic obedience training and socialization for their puppies.

The program also includes a partnership with Ocean Lakes Elementary School in Virginia Beach, where special curriculum helps students understand the invaluable service these puppies will eventually provide. The puppies are making visits to the schools as part of their socialization training, with students chronicling the visits with student reporter podcast segments. Nine year-old student Alexia Fenner also had an active role in the “Day in the Life” video, serving as the voice of Joanie.

After several months of training and love, the puppies will be returned to Guiding Eyes for “finishing training,” to teach them specific skills that eventually will make them the perfect companion for a deserving individual. The approximate value of each fully trained guide dog is $45,000 – a cost that is entirely underwritten for each GEB graduate who receives a dog from the program.

While living at Atlantic Shores, the puppies are becoming integrated into the dog-friendly senior campus, with the puppies attending such resident activities as Arts & Crafts, and unique events like “Yappy Hours” with special treats for both human and canine residents. The puppies are also brightening the spirits of residents, with visits to the community’s Harbourway assisted living facility, Seaside skilled nursing center, and Memory Care Unit.

Sixty-one year old Atlantic Shores resident Linda Palminteri has a special reason for signing up for the program. Her fraternal twin sister Lois has a form of Muscular Dystrophy, and Linda trained with her and her assistance dog, Carmichael – a black lab that served her for 16 years. Because she saw the dramatic effect a service dog had in the life of her sister, Linda dedicated her time with Joanie in Carmichael’s memory.

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