Oboists, violinists, and other musicians tuning is one thing you expect to see at Orchestra Hall, but this season if you looked under the right four seats in the balcony, you might have been surprised to see Labrador and golden retrievers quietly enjoying their morning out at the show.
Meet Jarvis, Jovie, Hopper, and Sheldon, Leader Dogs in training, and faithful PNC Pops Coffee Concert attendees, brought by raisers who love live music, and felt so welcomed by DSO staff that they all decided to buy PNC Pops subscriptions.
"We are always looking for different positive experiences to expose our puppies to," says Leader Dog puppy raiser Kayla Dever. "Live music, crowds, and settling quietly in tight spaces are all important things. The DSO gives us all three, plus different surfaces, stairs, elevators, and heavy traffic on Woodward."
Leader Dogs for the Blind has been operating since 1939 with the mission of empowering people who are blind or visually impaired with lifelong skills for safe and independent daily travel via the training and placement of Leader Dogs.
Kayla has been training dogs for ten years, and now says being a puppy raiser is part of her identity. "I raise now because it is who I am. I love that I can directly see how the puppy I raised is helping someone who needs them. It is a uniquely direct form of service."
Puppies in training do not have automatic access rights like fully trained service dogs do. This means raisers rely on businesses and organizations to allow them access in order to train and socialize their puppies: "We are incredibly grateful for all businesses, including the DSO, who allow us training access and recognize that we could not prepare these dogs for lives of service without their help," says Kayla.