Township Teenager Receives Somerset County Disability Advocate Award For Training Seeing Eye Dogs


Samantha Petersen, second from right, with her Somerset County Disability Advocate Award. Standing with her at the Oct. 25 Freeholders meeting, are (left to right) Freeholder Peter Palmer, Cynthia Voorhees of the county Office of Aging and Disabilities and her mother, Michele. Also pictured is Plymouth, a Seeing Eye dog in training. Photo: Petersen family.

A township teenager received one of three Somerset County Disabilities Advocate Awards given at the Oct. 25 Board of Chosen Freeholders meeting in Somerville.

Samantha Petersen, 17, received an award for her work raising Seeing Eye puppies for the blind and vision-impaired.

Petersen, who is president of the Somerset County K-9 Leaders Seeing Eye Puppy Club of Somerset County 4-H, has been training the puppies for nearly 10 years.

To date, she has raised seven puppies for The Seeing Eye organization. She attended the meeting with her current foster, Plymouth.

“I just want to thank Samantha for her individual selfless acts of service, and she’s a fantastic volunteer,” Cynthia Voorhees, of the county’s Office of Aging and Disabilities, said at the Freeholders’ meeting.

The puppies live with the trainers and their families for from the age of seven or eight weeks to 15 months before they are delivered to The Seeing Eye for their assignments. The trainers socialize the dogs to a variety of situations ranging from shopping and car rides to boarding airplanes, according to The Seeing Eye website.

Petersen, a senior at Central Jersey College Prep Charter School, said she became involved with raising Seeing Eye puppies in 2008 because “I wanted to learn how to raise and train a dog. When I started researching how I could do this I came across the K-9 Leaders Club at the 4-H where I could learn about caring for a puppy while performing a service for others through the Seeing Eye.”

“Even though it is hard to say good-bye to your puppy after a year of raising it, I know that our puppies will go on to be a heroes to a blind or seeing impaired person and give that person the dignity and independence they desire,” she said. “I hope that I am able to play even a small part in the bettering of someone’s life, the dogs are the real heroes.”

Petersen was nominated for the award by her mother, Michele, who said she is “proud of Samantha for the time, effort, and selflessness that she gives 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

“This experience has also taught her to be responsible for a living creature by giving her puppy medication, feeding him twice a day, cleaning up during the housebreaking stages, and all the other jobs associated with raising and socializing a puppy for the Seeing Eye,” she said.


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