EYECARE Magno is on a Mission! By Staff Wednesday, August 21, 2019 12:00 AM In simpler times, schoolchildren who failed to do their homework would make the excuse, “My dog ate it.” But what if the dog has the homework? Teachers training companion animals for the visually impaired don’t typically send their canine students home with assignments, but that doesn’t mean the work they do is any less important than classwork in other educational environments. In fact, it’s arguably more vital, given that these dogs need to be prepared to help their owners navigate the world. One such dog is Magno, the 11-month-old German Shepherd guide-dog-in-training Eschenbach Optik of America is sponsoring in partnership with the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation. Eschenbach, the leading manufacturer of magnification and vision enhancing products for the visually impaired, made a financial contribution to Fidelco Guide Dogs last year to help raise and train Magno who has been in Puppy Training Class for months now. And, by the time he celebrates his first birthday at Vision Expo West in Las Vegas this September, he’ll nearly be ready for the most intensive part of his “education.” “We’re getting to a really exciting part of the process in Magno’s development,” explains Ken Bradley, Eschenbach’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “Within a few months of his trip to Las Vegas, he’ll be entering into full-time training. It’s almost like he’ll be going off to college.” Bradley has no doubt Magno will be ready. The Eschenbach sponsored pup has already had a busy year. He earned his “red jacket”—the red vest that guide dogs in training wear to alert others that they are “training”—and can be in public areas that other animals typically cannot. According to Bradley, the sponsored guide dog also began regular classes at the Fidelco Guide Dogs Training Center in Bloomfield, Conn. In addition to learning basic commands, the dogs in these classes also pick up vital “socialization” experience, taking direction from handlers, getting used to being around other dogs and people and becoming acclimated to being handled for grooming and veterinary exams. Part of this socialization process involves gradually separating Magno from his Volunteer Puppy Raiser (VPR), a family in Connecticut, so that he will be ready to handle full-time, 24/7 training at Fidelco. He had his first overnight stay in the Fidelco Guide Dog’s kennel in the spring where he stayed over for three consecutive nights. This process helps guide dogs in training familiarize themselves with the kennel to minimize the stress they may feel when leaving their VPR. Soon, he will also be attending more indoor and outdoor activities in large, crowded and noisy settings to increase his comfort in all types of situations. “He’s already been going everywhere the VPR goes including restaurants, stores, malls--every environment people encounter on a day-to-day basis because that’s what he’ll be doing when he’s eventually placed with a visually impaired client next year,” Bradley says. In a way, Magno’s trip to Vegas will also be part of his training process. He’ll be in the passenger area of the plane with his VPR and a member of the Fidelco Guide Dog team, and he’ll have to demonstrate that he can handle that situation and behave appropriately, Bradley notes. Once he’s at Vision Expo West, though, it’ll be all about fun for Magno and those who come to see him at the Eschenbach booth (No. MS11031) because the company plans on hosting a birthday party for the pup. “When Magno came to Vision Expo East in March, we had people getting down on the floor with him to take selfies,” Bradley recalls. “It was magical, and it highlights the personal connection everyone has with dogs. For some people with vision loss magnification may not be enough to help them meet their needs. That’s where a guide dog like Magno can be so valuable in expanding their independence and improving their quality of life.” You can follow Magno’s extraordinary journey and learn more about the Eschenbach Partner Project online at www.eschenbach.com/partner_project.asp.