By Miho Kaneko / Staff Writer
By Miho Kaneko / Staff Writer
Haru Iguchi is the future of dog whispering, so Cesar Millan better watch out.
One of Riverside City College’s own international students has come to the United States in order to get an education in training guide-dogs.
Iguchi is an student from Shizuoka, Japan, and has been in the U.S. for two years.
As a young girl, she desired to be a veterinarian because she wanted to help animals.
But in junior high, she discovered a new possibility.
A guide-dog training show appeared on TV and there was an instant connection.
“When I knew the existence of guide-dog trainers, I thought it was a good job for me,” Iguchi said.
“I want to work for animals, but I also want to help people as well,” Iguchi said.
When she started searching for a guide dog training program, she knew of only one technical college for a guide dog trainer in Japan, the Japan Guide Dog Association.
The college accepted only 20 students every year.
However, there are typically 10 times as many applicants who would like to study at this college than the number of students who are actually accepted into the school.
The profession as a guide-dog trainer was extremely popular among Japanese students.
However, guide dogs and trainers were rare in Japan, and a system of guide dogs was not widely spread out.
So, instead of going to a Japanese college, Iguchi decided to try and study in the U.S.
“America was developed more than Japan in a lot of points, including a system of guide dogs,” Iguchi said.
“Most Japanese people have never seen guide dogs in real life,” she said.
In Japan, people usually see guide dogs on television, in pictures, or on the Internet.
Guide dogs are allowed in public places in Japan, although they are rarely seen.
Not all people are comfortable with the idea of guide dogs in public places.
Iguchi has only seen guide dogs at RCC twice since she’s come here.
Once when she saw a blind person, walking with their guide dog, and the other was of her instructor who volunteers and raises puppies for guide dogs.
“When I met my Professor Hall, he brought a puppy to our class,” Iguchi said. “It was so interesting and had never happened in my country.”
Although the U.S. is more developed in guide-dog training than Japan, there are still some problems in training programs.
“Even though there are many schools and organizations for guide dogs, the number of guide dogs are totally not enough,” Iguchi said. “Many persons want guide dogs, but we can’t give to all of them.”
According to Iguchi there is a bad circulation between the number of applicants and the number of available guide dogs.
“Even if people want guide dogs, some people can’t afford them because of their financial problem,” Iguchi said. “And some people give up having a guide dog and use sticks for walking by themselves.”
Even though there are still some problems with guide dogs in every country, Iguchi believes that the United States is the most beneficial place to study as a guide-dog trainer.
“I hope Japan can be like the U.S., and everybody can walk freely,” Iguchi said.
Iguchi is planning to graduate from RCC this coming fall.
She wants to study and volunteer at Guide Dogs of the Desert.
Guide Dogs of the Desert is a non-profit organization founded in 1972.
This group of people is trying to improve the lives of individuals who are blind by giving them companions that will change their lives to be more independent.
Guide Dogs of the Desert is also a member of the International Guide Dog Federation.
They ensure that every person receiving a guide dog is given only the best animals that are well-trained and will only enrich their lives.
On top of providing quality animals, the program is also extremely extensive.
The program includes breeding their own dogs, directly raising the puppies, formally training each dog, on-campus training with the students, and mobility and life skills training.
Iguchi has definitely found her perfect niche in this organization and will fit in just fine with these animal lovers.
“I hope I can be a guide dog trainer and help many people not only in Japan but also in the U.S. and other countries,” Iguchi said.