Tully passes IFT test, heads to Guide Dog School

Source: NBC12
Source: NBC12
Source: NBC12
Source: NBC12

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - It's been bittersweet lately here at NBC12. We had to say goodbye to Tully, our local puppy learning to be a guide dog.

Tully was taken to the Guiding Eyes for the Blind training facility in New York. We are very proud that she passed her entrance exam to get into Guide Dog School.

While we know she will soon change the life of someone who is blind or visually impaired, it is hard to let her go.

We met Tully a year ago. She was just 10 weeks old. Her raiser, Sarah, was 18 years old and already raising her second puppy for Guiding Eyes.

I sat down with Sarah and Tully to talk about the last year. When they're not working on Tully's skills, I've often seen Sarah carry Tully in her arms, even as Tully grew to weigh more than 50 pounds.

"She loves to be picked up. The other night she looked at me, and she was asleep, and we had to go upstairs and she was like, 'Do I want to walk up the stairs?'  And I was like, 'I'll pick you up.'  And it was just really sweet," she told us.

Tully and Sarah have been together 24/7, working on Tully's house manners, making her comfortable in different public situations, and teaching Tully basic commands.

We asked Sarah what she's learned about Tully's personality.

"This is a good representation," Sarah laughed, as Tully rolled on the floor. "She goes back and forth between a sleek 'I've got the world,' and then just rolling on her back and rolling on the grass and being goofy."

Tully has been wearing hand-me-down handkerchiefs and vests from the Today Show's Wrangler. The gear is a training technique to help Tully become comfortable wearing a harness, which we found she is.

In her IFT evaluation, Guiding Eyes trainers exposed Tully to strangers, loud sounds, and stresses to see if she remains calm and collected. They say her response was great.

"It basically tests her skills, tests her personality," Sarah explained. "They really do look for that streak of being able to be independent and make decisions."

Because she passed the test, Tully will now go through six months of guide dog training: learning to lead a blind person, cross streets, and keep her handler safe.

The hard part is that all of us in Richmond and here at NBC12, who have loved Tully, have to say goodbye.

"I've already cried three nights going to sleep," said Sarah. "But she's going to go do something really cool and change someone's life. So it's still worth it, even though it's hard."

To help ease her pain, Sarah already agreed to raise another Guiding Eyes puppy. In fact, they delivered a brown Labrador puppy named Osborne to her last night.

After Tully graduates from Guide Dog School in approximately six months, she'll be paired with a blind person.

You can continue to follow Tully's progress on facebook.com/HeatherSullivanNBC12 and on nbc12.com/Tully.

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