Fraternity's newest pledge is a guide dog in training

There's a new student on the campus of Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and unlike many of the other students, he's not there to study engineering or computer science.

He's majoring in how to become a guide dog.

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Diesel, a black Labrador retriever, is in training with the brothers of Phi Kappa Theta.

Jake Schiede, a rising senior, led the effort to bring Diesel into the fraternity house. "Initially we were interested in getting a puppy in the house, but we weren’t necessarily sure about the best way to get it," he said.

The students are now "puppy raisers," working with the Guide Dog Foundation. "Puppy raisers basically teach the dogs to behave at home. They teach the good house manners. They teach basic obedience. They also teach dogs how to behave in public," explained Paula Giardinella, a program coordinator with the foundation.

Giardinella thinks a college is a good setting for a puppy in training. "There's the potential for a lot of socialization. It happens naturally. The puppy is going to get a lot of exposure to different people, lots of noise. I am sure some parties, so yes, I think that it's a great place to raise a puppy."

And the Guide Dog Foundation needs trained puppies. There’s a long waiting list for trained dogs for people who have visual impairments. While a dog obviously improves the quality of life for the person it's paired with, Diesel is also having a positive effect on this frat house.

Fraternity member David Giangrave said having a dog present has changed the way the brothers interact and has brought them closer together.

Schiede added, “From our perspective, just being part of this program and giving back to another organization, that’s success enough in our book.”

Diesel will be in training with the fraternity for about year and then go to the Guide Dog Foundation’s main training facility on Long Island, where he’ll be assessed on whether he should continue getting additional training and makes the grade for becoming a guide dog ready for placement.

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