There are many famous animals spotted around the Shippensburg University campus. We have the famous Ship Squirrels Instagram account, @ship_squirrels, as well as and Oliver, Homecoming Royalty Hayley Anderson’s service dog. However, among all of the celebrities to meet on campus, one named Raider stands out.
Raider is a black labrador in training as a seeing eye dog with Allison Watts, a SU business college professor. The Seeing Eye is a New Jersey-based nonprofit that trains service animals for those in need. It is the oldest and largest guide school in the United States.
In order to raise funds, The Seeing Eye allows people to name the puppies for a donation of $5,000. Andrea Malmont, an SU professor in the teacher education department, started a fundraising campaign in 2019 to raise part of the money. Watts continued the effort and with the help of her students raised the rest of the amount needed over two semesters. The name Raider was decided on for the pup in honor of the university.
With The Seeing Eye, the dogs are given to puppy raisers at 7 weeks old and are kept until they are 16 months old. They then return to The Seeing Eye for formal training for approximately four months before being matched with a person to serve as their service animal.
Watts started training service animals for The Seeing Eye in 2018. After her own dog passed away, she got in touch with Malmont to learn more about puppy raising. Raider is the third puppy that Watts has helped raise to become a service animal.
Malmont started training service animals in 2008 after she finished working with an animal rescue. Over the years, she has helped train 12 seeing eye dogs and is currently in the process of raising another puppy. Having been a special education teacher before working at Shippensburg, she knew how important seeing eye dogs are for someone who is visually impaired.
Both Watts and Malmont, along with other puppy raisers, oversee getting the dog acclimated to social situations. For Raider specifically, this involves going to campus events, such as football games.
However, when encountering a celebrity such as Raider, or any other service animal that may be spotted around campus, it is important to remember that service animals have an important job to do.
“When you see someone with a service dog, talk to the person not the dog,” Watts said. They are different from regular animals, and some service animals are not able to be pet like normal dogs are. Their owner will likely make it clear if the animal is able to receive attention. Be sure to practice proper etiquette around service animals.
To see more of Raider and his adventures around Shippensburg University, you can follow his Instagram, @shipraiderpup_tse.