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Occupaws raises funds for guide dogs

MADISON, Wis. - Following the Occupaws fundraiser, more people who have visual impairments or are blind may be able to own a guide dog.

The fundraiser started Saturday at the Alliant Energy Center, which is Occupaws' biggest venue for the fundraiser to date. It was called the Spooktacular Vendor and Craft Fair, and although a wide range of fall and Halloween-themed decorations filled the venue's space, the spotlight was on the dogs.

"It's a confidence builder to be able to go out and live a normal life," said Mindy Allen, the event coordinator for the Occupaws fundraiser. "You don't always have to rely on someone to help you. The dog will help you with obstacles. It even stops if there's a car."

She said every dollar goes to the dogs. A fee from vendors and money raised by two raffles will help cover costs to give the guide dogs to people with visual disabilities for free.

Beyond the fundraiser, Allen said Occupaws is always looking for puppy raisers, who work with the dogs in their first few weeks of life, or for puppy babysitters, who take care of the dogs when the puppy raisers are out of town.

Susan Gasal, one of the guide dog's owners, said it's important for people to remember the dogs are working dogs, not pets. She asks people not to pet the dogs because they're working to keep people like herself safe. This said, dogs in training will be at the fundraiser again Sunday, when people can socialize with them.

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