Updated: Jul 9, 2022
Long-time The Seeing Eye puppy raiser, Brooke Krajewski, shares her journey to non-profit consultant and what's next.
26-year-old Brooke Krajewski has been raising future guide dogs for The Seeing Eye (TSE) since 1999. Her family had never had a dog and her dad wanted all the kids to get over their fear; however, her mom was not totally on board with a pet after the heartbreak of losing her childhood dog. Brooke’s dad met a puppy raiser for TSE at his work. The perfect compromise, a dog they would only have for a year, a pup from The Seeing Eye.
The Seeing Eye (TSE), located in Morristown, NJ, is America’s oldest Guide Dog school celebrating its 93rd birthday this year. The organization trains Labs, Goldens, Lab-Golden Crosses, and German Shepherds for the blind and visually impaired. TSE started its puppy-raising program in 1942 as a joint effort with the 4-H youth development program. Puppy raising for The Seeing Eye was designed as a family affair just as it is for Brooke and her family.
In the past 23 years, Brooke’s family has raised 25 dogs with #26 coming this summer. They have raised every breed The Seeing Eye has to offer and primarily raise females. They have three pet dogs from TSE that help them raise their pups in training, 2 retired breeders, Ibarra and Lucy, that live with Brooke in DC, and a career-changed golden retriever, Liberty, that lives with the family in New Jersey.
Brooke currently works at BDO, one of the largest accounting firms in the world that
also provides tax, consulting, and business advisory services. Using her BA in Accounting she serves as a consultant in the nonprofit industry. Brooke primarily consults in accounting and finance on topics such as compliance, policies and procedures review, grant assessments, etc, but depending on the project may also consult on change management, strategy, or other non-accounting related areas.
Volunteering for The Seeing Eye has led Brooke to become a subject matter expert in the assistance dog industry and help win clients for her company. Brooke has been able to teach her company about some of the important aspects of service dogs such as puppy raising, how to interact with a service dog, assistance dog organizations, and the populations they serve. With this knowledge, she has provided insight into the different populations served by BDO, “For example, we had a client with a visually impaired president/CEO. Since I have volunteered with The Seeing Eye I knew a bit about screen readers so I spent time making the proposal and all other deliverables accessible. This has now expanded to working with [the] leadership of my company to develop an accessibility group to better serve all individuals for internal and external deliverables.”
“It took me a few years into my career to understand the impact my volunteer work with Seeing Eye has on me and my drive in the Nonprofit industry,” says Brooke who is now focused on working in the nonprofit sector. This year she is looking into nonprofits and compiling a list of ones she could see herself working at in the future. She is using her experience at BDO and her research to narrow down what role she would like to play at a nonprofit and gather the necessary experience before moving to the other side of the table. In the future, Brooke hopes to work at a nonprofit in the assistance dog industry.
Brooke and her family will continue raising future assistance dogs for as long as they can. “I continue to raise because I love providing independence to individuals who are blind and visually impaired. In addition, I love the dedicated and selfless group of people I have gotten to know while volunteering for this organization.” Brooke loves bringing pups on exposure trips and having them experience such unique and fun outings (something essential to all assistance dogs, especially guide dogs who cannot be fazed by their environment), but her favorite part of raising is the community and wonderful friends that have become family. Brooke and her family fundraised enough money to sponsor TSE pup #25 and named her Claudia after one of the most influential TSE leaders in Brooke’s life who passed away earlier last year. TSE Claudia is currently 9 months old and well on her way to becoming a seeing-eye dog.
Something unique to The Seeing Eye is their graduation for puppy raisers. Organizations will typically put on celebration events where puppy raisers can meet their dog’s new handler, but they may not be able to see all their dog has learned in advanced training. TSE instead does something called a “Townwalk”. Raisers go to Morristown and watch from a distance as the puppy they raised guides their trainer around the town. This is done even for those joining the breeding colony. This is one of Brooke’s favorite parts of raising, she says, “Every Townwalk amazes me with how much this pup has grown from the tiny 7-week-old pup that was struggling to walk. It is always a very emotional event but extremely rewarding.”
Often after puppy raising, volunteers are interested in becoming trainers or involved in the puppy program of their organization. We can see from Brooke’s experience that this is not the only path. For those that want to incorporate puppy raising or assistance dogs into their career but maybe don't want to be a trainer, Brooke recommends starting a list of organizations you would want to work for and networking with those organizations. From there Brooke suggests researching the different positions available at those organizations, determining which ones are most interesting to you, and gaining experience related to those positions through any for-profit or nonprofit company.
Brooke’s love of puppy raising also brought her to Pawsible in 2020. She serves as a Development Coordinator and is critical in supporting fundraising efforts and obtaining corporate in-kind donations. She also is our resident The Seeing Eye expert and supports internal and external community initiatives.
Follow Brooke and her pups on Instagram @libslabs and @raisingtse