When Beth Mercer’s brother, Kevin Waters, was paired with a guide dog after losing his sight in his early 40s, she saw the ways in which it transformed his world, giving him renewed freedom and independence. Mercer appreciated the ways the dog enriched his life, not just from her perspective as a sister, but as a medical professional. Mercer directs the College’s Physician Assistant Studies Program. She has dedicated her career to the care and well-being of others and to preparing PA students for lives of service. Mercer emulates that in her own life – giving back whenever and wherever she can.
Mercer and her family are currently serving as “puppy raisers” for Freedom Guide Dogs, the Cassville, N.Y., based organization that paired Waters with his first assistance dog some 20 years ago – and three more since then. They are currently raising Clover, a Labrador-Collie mix, socializing her and introducing her to as many people, environments and animals as possible and teaching her basic commands so that she will be confident and adaptable as a guide. Clover will live with the Mercers until she is about 15 months old, at which point she will return to Freedom Guide Dogs for an additional four to six months of intensive training. If she completes that successfully, she will be matched with someone who needs her assistance and will begin to work.
Mercer has been bringing Clover to campus as often as she can and has found that the dog’s presence is a treat for the students, particularly during days when they have long labs to complete. She encourages others who have the time, heart and space to do so to seriously consider puppy raising. The hardest part, she says, is giving the dog back after he or she has earned a special place in your heart. But knowing what the puppy will mean to someone else makes it entirely worth it.