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Dr. Amy DeWitt to present research on raising guide dogs at February 19 Faculty Research Forum

ISSUED: 5 February 2020
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — Shepherd University’s Faculty Research Forum will focus on training guide dogs during a presentation Wednesday, February 19, from noon-1 p.m. in the Robert C. Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education auditorium. Dr. Amy L. DeWitt, professor of sociology, will present research titled “Returning a Puppy for Guide Training: Factors that Impact Grief and Raising Again.”

DeWitt has raised dogs for the Yorktown Heights, New York-based organization Guiding Eyes for the Blind (GEB), which breeds, raises, and trains dogs to serve as guides for people with visual impairments or blindness. GEB’s puppy-raising program enlists volunteers like DeWitt to foster pups for a year or more, providing socialization, basic skills training, and comfort so they will grow into confident dogs. The volunteers must ultimately return these dogs to GEB to begin training. For raisers, the emotional toll of returning a dog can be great. Utilizing the 2017 GEB puppy raiser survey data, DeWitt’s study analyzed factors that might impact emotional grief and the decision to continue to raise puppies. Cross-tabulation and ordinal regression analyses examined the associations of raiser demographics, organizational integration, and goal attainment with self-reported emotional difficulty, recovery time, and likelihood of raising another puppy.

DeWitt’s interests are primarily rooted in gender roles, the family, and gender portrayals in children’s media. Her articles have appeared in the publications Sex Roles, Feminist Teacher, and Response. Raising puppies for Guiding Eyes for the Blind inspired a new interest in the work of puppy raisers and dog guides. The current research will be published this spring in the Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness. DeWitt received her Ph.D. from the University of North Texas in 2005 and is currently professor of sociology and director of academic advisement at Shepherd.

For more information, contact Dr. Robert Anthony, Faculty Research Forum chair, at rantho02@shepherd.edu.

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