I cannot think of two better things to advertise at an event: dogs and wine.
Guiding Eyes for the Blind hosted its third annual Pinot and Puppies event at Six Mile Creek Vineyard on Sunday. A ten-dollar suggested donation would grant event-goers a raffle ticket and a tasting of six of the vineyards best-selling wines. Attendees also enjoyed the musical stylings of The Chordials and Voicestream, two co-ed a cappella groups from Cornell University and Ithaca College respectively, as well as local musicians Brian Donovan and Mike Tolomeo.
Dogs roamed the building, giving kisses and cuddles while their raisers explained the importance of guide dog training and the specifics of what the organization does.
“We have 21 dogs on program right now,” said Cassie Houghton, Guiding Eyes’s Finger Lakes Region Coordinator, “We get our dogs when they’re about eight-weeks-old and have them for about a year and a half until they go back to Guiding Eyes.”
The main goal of the program is to train the dogs in obedience, house manners and socialization. When they’ve completed this portion of the training they go back to Guiding Eyes to complete certification. For dogs that do not make it into the program, like Cassie’s German Shepherd, Gloria, there are alternate programs for them to enroll in including Healing Autism, and various detection and police agencies. When the dogs have retired from their line of work, their former raisers are given first dibs on adoption.
Over the past month GEB president-elect Karina Wagner, a sophomore at Ithaca College and raiser of a six-month-old Labrador named Arthas, has been planning the event by collecting donations from local businesses. Food was provided by Wegmans, Snofarm Dairy, Ithaca Hummus Co., among others, and other companies offered products to be given away as raffle prizes.
The event was previously planned by Jean Snow, who is still an active member of the Guiding Eyes family.
“It all started because my family makes cheese,” said Snow. Some of that cheese was included in the donation. “We already had a relationship with the winery. We just got lucky.”
Snow says that this is Guiding Eyes for the Blind’s most successful fundraiser every year, which is easy to imagine.
Houghton said that this year they’re going to use the proceeds to purchase more dog crates, as the current ones are in rough shape.
“A lot of our crates have been in our inventory for upwards of ten years, so they’re getting a little worn and bent.”
“We raised over one thousand dollars today,” said Wagner, “which will go toward equipment we need to ensure that our dogs are cared for in the best way possible.”