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GIVING UP HER FRIEND TO HELP OTHERS.

Byline: DENNIS McCARTHY

They've been best friends for the last year and a half - the 9-year-old kid and the guide-dog-in-training.

Wherever Lindsay Robb goes, so does Remi, the black Labrador she's raised since it was eight weeks old to one day help a blind person get through a dark world.

School, Girl Scout outings, the supermarket, the mall, even Disneyland. If you see Lindsay, you see Remi, wearing her yellow Guide Dog jacket.

Lindsay's mom, Nancy, helps out once in a while, but make no mistake about it, say the people at the Guide Dogs of America: It's Lindsay - the youngest puppy raiser in the organization - who's done the work.

Lindsay had walked Remi after school every day, keeping her on a short leash so that the dog would learn to stay at the side of a blind person instead of running ahead.

Lindsay has taken Remi to school and to the mall, and Remi now knows how to stay calm in noisy, crowded situations.

Lindsay has trained Remi to stay calm when she sees food, and to wait for a word or hand signal that it's OK to eat.

And - maybe most important of all - Lindsay has dispensed the hugs when Remi has done a good job.

All this and more - every day for the last year and a half, all to get ready for Saturday.

On that day, the Granada Hills kid had to say goodbye to her best friend, who was moving on to start four to six months of formal guide-dog training at the Sylmar facility.

``It's sad, but, in a way, it is also happy,'' Lindsay wrote a couple of months ago to tens of thousands of school kids across the United States who read Scholastic News, America's classroom newspaper.

``We wish we could keep her forever, because we love her, but we can't. She has an important job ahead of her. Remi will live with and become the 'eyes' for someone who cannot see. What a gift that will be!''

And what a gift it would be for Guide Dogs of America and other nonprofit organizations - groups that work so hard to help the blind and physically challenged - if more kids followed Lindsay's lead.

``Raising a guide-dog puppy is a huge commitment for a family, and most of the work traditionally is done by the adults,'' says Louise Henderson, puppy program coordinator for Guide Dogs of America.

``But slowly we're seeing more kids like Lindsay starting to get involved full time with raising these puppies, and that's a wonderful thing, because they're learning at an early age how rewarding it feels.''

She's right, Lindsay said this week. It does feel good, even if she is sad about having to give up her best friend.

``It's a lot of work, but it's worth it,'' she said. ``It makes you feel like you're really making a difference.''

This is the third puppy the Robbs have raised for Guide Dogs. The first, Raleigh, washed out of training because he was too hyper.

``He wound up becoming a search-and-rescue dog with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department,'' Nancy Robb said.

``Pasha, our second dog, passed and is living in Sacramento, working for people who have lost their sight. Now it's time for Remi to leave, and this one is tough, because she's been Lindsay's dog from Day One.

``They have really bonded,'' Nancy said, adding that, in July, her daughter will be getting a new puppy from Guide Dogs to raise.

Remi moved into a kennel at the Sylmar facility Saturday with a black Lab named Bentley.

If Remi passes, there will be a graduation day in about six months. Lindsay will be invited to attend and meet the blind person who Remi will go to.

``It will be emotional,'' Henderson says. ``It always is.''

Lindsay understands that. She may only be 9, but being a guide-dog puppy raiser has made her grow up pretty fast this past year and a half, she says.

Like she told the kids across the nation in Scholastic News, her best friend has got an important job ahead - being the eyes for someone who cannot see.

What a gift that will be.

For information on becoming a puppy raiser for Guide Dogs of America, give Louise Henderson a call at (818) 362-5834, Ext. 234.

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

Lindsay Robb, 9, of Granada Hills poses with Remi, the dog she has raised from a puppy. On Saturday, Remi left Lindsay to begin guide-dog training.

David Sprague/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 18, 2003
Words:756
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