Sunny kissing a student at the Henry Viscardi School.

Sunny Celebrates 2nd Birthday

Sunny's Final Placement 

At the Guide Dog Foundation, our goal is to place our dogs in a career that’s right for them. If a dog isn’t suited to be a guide dog, for whatever reason, we look for a career path with other potential organizations where they will have an impact based on the skillset and behaviors they exhibit.

After a year and a half of monitoring Sunny’s training, health, and well-being, our team at the Guide Dog Foundation discovered that Sunny has mild allergy issues that will prohibit him from becoming a guide dog for someone who is blind or visually impaired. However, based on a thorough evaluation of his skills and temperament, we concluded a placement at an organization close to the Foundation would allow Sunny to continue to work and allow our canine care team to monitor his allergies and provide top medical care when needed. 

Sunny will join the staff as a Facility Dog at the Henry Viscardi School at The Viscardi Center in Albertson, New York. The Henry Viscardi School provides educational opportunities for children with severe physical disabilities who may also require life-sustaining medical treatment during the school day. Sunny has been trained to provide a variety of tasks to engage children as they go about their daily academic activities.

We are proud of Sunny and have been honored to witness him blossom into an amazing assistance dog. We are thankful to NBC and TODAY for the awareness they helped raise for Sunny and the mission of the Guide Dog Foundation and we look forward to an amazing difference he’ll make in the lives of hundreds of children with disabilities he’ll be supporting each school year.

It is of upmost importance that the Guide Dog Foundation places the highest quality guide dogs with our clients who are blind or visually impaired. Our canine care and veterinary staff are consistently monitoring the behavioral and medical well-being of all of our dogs from birth through placement to ensure a successful match with the people we serve.


Q: What is the he Henry Viscardi School  at The Viscardi Center?
A. The Henry Viscardi School is a New York State supported school that offers parents of children with severe physical disabilities and who often require life-sustaining medical treatment throughout the day, a traditional educational setting that provides rigorous academics and opportunities for personal growth and leadership development. Its specialized, accessible educational setting provides a fully-enriched academic program, a variety of therapies, assistive technology and medical supports to students who may otherwise need to receive instruction in their homes or a hospital. The students, pre-K through age 21, come from Nassau and Suffolk Counties, the five boroughs of New York City, as well as Westchester and Rockland Counties.

Q: What will Sunny do at the school?
A. Sunny is going to be participating in various ways with faculty and students including the following:
  • Greeting/Goodbye (with the children at the start/end of day) - Depending on child’s capabilities, that may be a fist bump, a hand shake, petting, or asking him to rest his head in their lap
  • Speech Therapy - Student will say obedience cues and Sunny will do them or kids will name an object like “pencil” and Sunny will pick that up
  • Care of Dog (grooming, checking paws, ears, etc.) as a reward - Students will learn responsibility and share the care of Sunny by taking turns grooming, checking his paws, ears, etc.
  • Read to Sunny - Sunny will minimize the anxiety of reading out loud by resting his head into their lap while they take turns reading aloud
  • Close doors, drawers, cabinets, etc to assist faculty throughout the day - Within the classroom
  • Push power door buttons - Most students are power wheelchair users
  • Walking Sunny as a reward - With his handler by their side, Sunny will walk with students as they hold  the handle on his special vest
  • Social and emotional learning - Sunny will assist with social and emotional learning at the school which is the process through which children understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships and make responsible decisions.

Q: Who is Sunny’s new handler?
A. Sunny will be working and living with a carefully chosen full-time school faculty member who has previous dog handling experience and interacts with the entire student body each week. As with all facility dog handlers, we carefully select and screen individuals to be a part of our facility dog programs.

Q: What medical condition does Sunny have?
A: Our team of veterinarians discovered Sunny has mild allergies that requires monthly check ups and monitoring that will continue throughout his life. He may need to take medication a few times a year to keep him comfortable during his “allergy season”.  He is otherwise a happy and healthy boy with a great quality of life!

Q: What type of medical evaluations do our dogs participate in?
A: All of our future assistance dogs undergo continuous medical and behavioral evaluations throughout puppy raising and the formal training prior to being placed with their veteran handler. We also require our clients to have their dogs examined by a veterinarian at least once a year.

Farewell Sunny!

Training Pupdates

Sunny's Stanley Pup Recaps

Sunny's Stanley Pupdates


Sunny, the Stanley Pup

Sunny goes to a NY Islanders game

Recapping the year

It's been a whole year since Sunny ran into Studio 1A with his brothers and sister in tow, and what a wild year it has been! I thought I knew exactly what I was getting into with Sunny, as I had just wrapped up with TODAY's previous puppy with a purpose (Charlie), but I was quite wrong. Instead of having a puppy with a purpose, we have had PUPPIES with a purpose (AKA the #TODAYPuppySquad/ Class of 2019), and that has made all the difference in the world.

I was asked to pick what my favorite part of the past year has been, and when I took time to think about it, it is this difference that stands out to me above all the exciting sports games, amazing concerts, kind celebrities, big laughs, and fun costumes. Having a family to share the year's worth of experiences has made this year especially impactful for me. One of my favorite Helen Keller quotes is: "Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much." With Brady, Camden, Izzy, Sunny, and Zuma, we have had the opportunity to do 5x the awareness on our missions, 5x the fundraising to change lives, and 5x the education on guide dogs and service dogs.

We have also had the opportunity to encourage each other along the way, share training, and swap stories. The truth is, though, our squad is so much bigger than 5 puppies and their puppy raisers. It is a family of Guide Dog Foundation and America's VetDogs staff members, our volunteers, NBC staff and talent, and supporters near and far that have been with these puppies every step of the way since this very moment last year.

Getting to share Sunny's progress with such a giant, loving family has been my favorite part. So here's to you: Happy One Year Anniversary! Thank you for making this such a memorable, productive, and fulfilling year.

Sunny Celebrates 1 Year on TODAY

Sunny visits Washington DC

Puppy Squad 1st Birthday

Sunny's 1st Birthday

Sunny's 1st Blindfold Walk

Sunny visits WLWT Cincinnati

Sunny on the catwalk 

(He walks last with Anthony Rubio)

Sunny visits The Voice

Sunny visits the Mets

Sunny celebrate six months on TODAY

Camden and Izzy visit Sunny

Training Pupdate 8-15-18

Sunny has checked quite a few experiences off his list of socialization goals: First flight, a day at the beach, and a boat ride all within the span of just over a week. We really try to “seas” the day 😉! Socialization is Sunny cruising on a boat.about ensuring Sunny is comfortable with any combination of his senses activated. Sound, sight, smell, touch, taste are all applicable to his boat ride: the sound of the boat’s motor, the sights of other boats passing, the smell of the ocean, the sensation of wind in his ears, and the taste of the salt water splash. He handled it all like a captain!

I am constantly impressed by Sunny’s adaptability in and attitude towards new challenges. In fact, he is doing so well, that he is going to start his formal guide dog training early. Within the next couple of weeks, Sunny will receive his guide dog harness and take everyone on the journey of just what it takes to provide the mobility that a guide dog user desires. To some, working with a guide dog feels like flying or sailing. Thanks to his recent exposures, he knows just what those sensations are like! We look forward to showing you all the steps in between.

Sunny and Zuma hit LA

Sunny visits Zuma

Spectacular, Spectacular

This past weekend, Sunny attended his very first musical! We went to see the world premiere of Moulin Rouge! in Boston, Massachusetts, and his behavior was truly “spectacular, spectacular.” The beautiful Sunny outside the theater.Colonial Theater was packed with people and packed with experiences for Sunny. When doors opened, he had to practice what I call his “indoor pace” of a slow, controlled speed as everyone poured into the theater. Sunny resisted the urge to greet the excited attendees who squealed and called out to us upon recognizing Sunny in his bright orange vest. Great self-control! Our tickets in the mezzanine required a slow progression up the crowded staircase. Manhattan has really helped to prepare him for such an event. Our seats had very little leg room which required Sunny to think small. He was very willing, and I feel confident that he can now handle that little amount of floor space for his next socialization challenge of his first plane ride.

The stage set of the show.During the show, Sunny was exposed to an eruption of clapping, cheering, streamers, and an abrupt standing ovation. Thanks to his vast experiences at the TODAY show, he handled it brilliantly, and I left the show beaming with pride. As a puppy raiser, certain quotes and songs take on new meaning when you apply them to the puppy raising journey. This classic Moulin Rouge quote most certainly struck a chord with me in regards to Sunny’s journey: “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.” His future partner’s love will be unparalleled.

All-Star Sunny 7-24-18

TODAY took Sunny out to the ballgame, and he ruffed, ruffed, ruffed for the home team! He is very proud to say he met the Mets during batting practice and delivered the ball to the mound for the first pitch. Attending sporting events in environments like Citi Field is all fun but not a game. These important experiences help Sunny to become a reliable working dog despite crowds, cheering, music, food on the ground, Sunny sitting on the field at Citi Field prior to a Mets gamesand field activity that would likely capture the attention of pet dogs. Mets player Brandon Nimmo couldn’t get enough of Sunny’s work enthusiasm, and everyone was excited when Noah Syndergaard came over to greet our Sun! Noah is affectionately know as “Thor” so Sunny is hopeful they could combine their skills in a team called “Labra-Thor” (Get it?).

In addition to the Mets game, Sunny got to experience the US Open’s Ball-Person Tryouts. Now, Sunny isn’t a person, but he is a boy. A very good boy! Tennis courts can serve as a great fully-enclosed place to free-run a future guide dog in the city (assuming the court permits, and it is unoccupied, of course). Free-running provides great release for energy and stress. Sunny had a blast stretching his legs and having fun at the iconic USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center. Be sure to check out our Instagram Story Highlights for scenes from these two great days!

Sunny ball-person tryouts

Sunny meets the Mets!

Olivia and Sunny talk PSA

Sunny welcomes in Summer

Sunny celebrates International Guide Dog Day 4-26-18

Sunny training pupdate 4-17-19

Olivia and Sunny walking by Rock Center, NY.Here’s a little dose of Sun in case your weather has been like ours- not warm enough! I have nicknamed our boy the “Energizer Sunny,” because his enthusiasm for learning and action just keep going and going and going and going… In order to channel his superpowers for good, Sunny has learned a few additional tasks ahead of schedule.  In one of our training rooms on campus, we have light switches and automatic door buttons set a very low height.  Sunny has learned to turn a light switch both on and off with his nose and activate the automatic door with one assertive push right in the center of the button.  Though these tasks are not standard for guide dog training, one niche Guide Dog Foundation can offer is to cross-train a dog whenever a person’s needs go beyond vision loss.  That means we can provide a dual guide/hearing dog or dual guide/service dog, and we do so through the knowledgeable service dog training staff of our sister organization America’s VetDogs.  It has been really fun for me to hone my own service dog training skills with eager Sunny while we wait for him to physically mature enough to learn his guide dog skills.  Who knows what the future will bring in terms of the person to whom Sunny is matched, but with his quest for knowledge, anything is possible!

Sunny celebrates National Sibling Day 4-10-18

Sunny met the Easter Bunny 4-2-18

Stepping it up! 3-30-18

Olivia and Sunny doing platform work.Sunny has shown so much growth, physically and figuratively, since his first day on TODAY. He is currently 28 whole lbs., and (I’m almost afraid to put this in writing for fear of jinxing it but…) he has slept through the night 6 days in a row. Now, that being said, he is much more of a morning person (dog?) than I am, and I know many people who would claim that his early wake-up call doesn’t quite count as sleeping through the night. Progress is progress though, and we will take it! Sunny has learned his name very well, and it really suits him. He is as cheery as a sunny day, and definitely as bright! He has picked up the following behavior cues with ease: sit, down, touch, place, and kennel; he walks up and down steps confidently; and he is learning to walk politely on a loose leash very quickly for such a young man! I hope you are enjoying his #TrainingTuesday posts on @GuideDogFoundation’s Instagram. Many more fun things for him to learn in the days to come!

He has had his first playdate with another future guide dog puppy, met a cat for the first time, experienced his first snow (and his second, and his third, and his fourth… Spring, come quick!), and did his first grocery shopping. I love the way he is taking on life, no hesitation, going all in! Thanks for supporting him in the same grand way!

Sunny celebrates National Puppy Day 3-23-18

Sunny meets GDF puppy Sandy 3-14-18

Sunny and Olivia Update March 6, 2018

Scene one, take two!  It is a very surreal feeling to be back at the beginning of another TODAY Puppy with a Purpose.  The privilege is most certainly not lost on me!  Different puppy, different purpose, but same Sunny in her puppy vest sitting on a blanket outside.heart and soul going into it.  Studio 1A is such bright, cheery place, and I think it is incredibly fitting that America chose to name our boy “Sunny.”  There is no doubt in my mind that TODAY will help our Sun to rise.  During our first week, Sunny met some very talented people including Kelly Clarkson and Jimmy Buffett.  Inspiration is never in short supply!  He also met Maia and Alex Shibutani, Team USA skaters and siblings, affectionately know as the “Shib Sibs.” 

Sunny was quick to brag on his own siblings (Brady, Camden, Izzy, and Zuma) who are helping to expand the “Puppy with a Purpose” program to local NBC stations across the country.  It has been fun for us to follow their segments and watch (with pride!) as they serve as teammates in helping the public understand what it takes to become a Guide Dog Foundation guide dog or America’s VetDogs service dog for someone in need.

Right now, Sunny keeps me on my toes with those razor-sharp puppy teeth, middle-of-the-night nature calls, and his boundless energy, but I know if I blink, his extra soft puppy fur, rolls too many to count, and heart-melting puppy face will fade into a grown-up guide dog.  My plan is to enjoy each stage (they never last) and thoroughly enjoy sharing the journey with you.  Get ready: his future is so bright- you’re going to need shades! 😎

Checking in w/ the class of 2019

Charlie and Stacy visit TODAY

TODAY puppy name reveal

Class of 2019 visits Megyn Kelly TODAY

Introducing the class of 2019

Meet Sunny

Hi, America!  It's SUNNY! - your new TODAY puppy with a purpose.  I have the honor of following in Charlie's paw prints and I couldn't be more excited to share my journey to become a guide dog with you.  Today puppy with a purpose Sunny.As you know, Charlie had wonderful adventures last year – exploring so many exciting new places and meeting tons of amazing people, and I'm excited to take on my own adventures. I'm also looking forward to working with Olivia every day during my journey.  I know one day I'll help change the life of someone who is visually impaired and I ask that you support my mission in doing so.

Also, be sure to follow me on Olivia's Instagram page, and check back in on this page for updates on my socializing and training.  Wish me luck!

Birthday: January 2, 2018
Mom: Muffin (Yellow Labrador Retriever)
Dad: Pancho (Black Labrador Retriever)
Siblings: Seven brothers and sisters (3 yellow male, 1 black male, 2 black female)
This little guy is confident and adventurous. 

Meet Olivia Poff

Olivia Poff began working with Guide Dog Foundation as a volunteer puppy raiser 9 years ago. The United States Marine Corp. veteran that received the first puppy that she raised stated that her service dog not only improved her life, but saved it. It was in that moment that Olivia realized she wanted to join the assistance dog Olivia with Charlie at TODAYindustry professionally. 

Olivia graduated from the University of Georgia in 2011 with a degree in Animal Science and has worked in the puppy and training departments of Guide Dog Foundation and America's VetDogs for over 6 years. She has raised 7 puppies total, including Charlie (TODAY's previous "puppy with a purpose"), and has formally trained 25 guide dogs for 25 deserving people. “The power of human-animal bond is something that never ceases to amaze me”.

Get your Puppy with a Purpose

Photo of a black and yellow plush Lab toy with an GDF vest.