Leslie Tayne, Esq., founder and head attorney of Tayne Law Group, is the first to admit: she wasn’t always a dog person.
“I didn’t really want to go near them,” Tayne said.
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Over the last five years, Tayne has been a dog mom to more than 30 puppies and at one point had 15 dogs, including a litter of newborns, in her home at the same time. Tayne is a puppy raiser for the Guide Dog Foundation, Inc., a Smithtown-based non-profit that provides trained service dogs to visually impaired individuals around the world at no cost. When her friends found out, they did a double-take.
“People were like, ‘You’re getting a dog?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m getting a dog.’”
Tayne wasn’t delving into puppy parenthood alone. She found out about the organization when her daughter was looking to complete a service project for her Bat Mitzvah. She and her daughter went to Smithtown for an introductory class and tour of the facility.
“When we walked around and looked at the kennels and saw all the dogs, I was just so overwhelmed by how many dogs were going to be out there for people with special needs.”
Tayne and her daughter were on board and completed the process to become puppy raisers. The training included additional classes and being matched by a “puppy advisor,” a mentor who would help them when they ran into issues raising the dogs.
The Tayne family took home their first puppy, Spring, about five years ago. Because Spring was so food-motivated, the Foundation decided to alter her career path. She now works as a detection canine with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Arizona. The Taynes keep in touch with her handlers via social media and text message and have even visited them, but saying goodbye to Spring after loving her for 18 months was painful for the family.
“It’s not an easy thing for the kids to be a part of the dog’s life and see it go. To really take it home with you and really eat and breathe…it involves a lot of sacrifice. It’s something they should be proud of.”
The Taynes have continued to raise puppies for anywhere from a week to a full 18 months. And these days, Tayne now has a true village helping her raise her pups. Three years ago, she decided to bring Leo, a docile lab, into her office in Melville. He was a hit and she’s been bringing in puppies ever since.
“It brings everyone together. It’s a team effort. It’s like, ‘Who’s going to take the dog out?’ And then they love sitting with the puppy.”
And though she never thought she’d say this five years ago, Tayne loves sitting with the puppies too, cradling one in her arms after we spoke. She even has extended the option to bring dogs to work to her employees. It’s safe to say her involvement with the Guide Dog Foundation has opened her eyes to a side of herself she never thought she had.
“Instinctually, this is where I feel very connected. [Disabled people] will say, ‘You don’t understand what this has done to my life. This dog is my lifeline to the world.’ It gets me all choked up.”