jamie Rick

Rick with Asta, his family's seeing eye puppy.

Going Beyond: Jamie Rick

Jamie Rick, a commercial lines agent focusing on new business and existing client service for LaFontaine & Budd, Inc. in Somerville, New Jersey, was named the recipient of the 2018 UFG Agent Go Beyond award. UFG is proud to donate $5,000 to The Seeing Eye® on Jamie’s behalf, in recognition of his selfless contributions to the organization. Read more about Jamie and his commitment to help The Seeing Eye.

Changing Lives One Puppy at a Time

Rick presented with his Go Beyond award
Rick (center) was presented with his Go Beyond award at the LaFontaine & Budd, Inc. office in Somerville, New Jersey. From left: Ray Dudonis (UFG VP/regional branch manager), Janet Rick (LaFontaine and Budd office administrator); Jamie Rick (LaFontaine and Budd president); Karen M. Fulfaro (UFG senior marketing representative), Jocelyn Rineer (Agency Network Exchange VP field operations). Rick with Asta, his family’s Seeing Eye puppy.Rick with Asta, his family’s Seeing Eye puppy.

Late on a summer afternoon several years ago, Jamie Rick and his wife, Janet, were enjoying dinner when they watched a procession of dogs being walked along the opposite side of the street. When the group made its way on their side of the street, they couldn’t help but express their curiosity to the humans in the parade—and the rest is history.

“My wife seized the moment…our daughter had been wanting a dog and I was always hesitant—kids promise to take care of the pets but it always falls on the parents, right?—but my wife was ready: a way for our daughter to earn her Girl Scout gold award, for college applications, etc.,” says Rick.

Rick was still not on board with dog ownership but when he returned home from work one night about a month later, his daughter and wife “ambushed” him with a well-thought out plan for how to successfully become a Seeing Eye family. That summer, they visited a Seeing Eye event and also attended a monthly meeting for “puppy raisers,” as Seeing Eye calls its foster pup parents.

Even though he was still unsure, Rick went through the screening process. He was invited to the open house for his group of new puppy parents and decided to attend, where he met blind people, some who had already been in the program and some who will still waiting for their dogs and listened to their stories. That’s when it clicked for Rick.

“I realized how life changing having a Seeing Eye dog was for these people,” says Rick.

“These dogs literally give these people back their autonomy and individuality—they’re able to move about the world more freely. It’s so impactful.”

It also made an impact on Rick and his family. They’re currently raising their third puppy, Asta, and they’ve now realized how easy it is to fall in love with them.

“Our current puppy makes us laugh…he’s goofy. You have to deal with all the puppy stuff but you want to make sure they’re performing well, too,” says Rick. “There’s a sense of pride if your puppy passes his final tests and gets placed with someone who needs a Seeing Eye dog.”

Most of the Seeing Eye dogs are in the Labrador or Retriever family, who are known for their good behavior, relatively calm demeanors and desire to learn and please their owners. Still, it’s not a guarantee that your dog will get placed.

In addition to testing, dogs are also checked for any hip issues since they tend to be larger breeds. “The best moment so far was when our first puppy was successfully matched after the series of tests they go through after training,” says Rick. “Unfortunately, our second puppy didn’t make it but now he’s off being someone’s pet and making them happy in a different way.”

Rick is always quick to point out how life-changing The Seeing Eye organization is to anyone who will listen. “I learned about a college professor in New York City who trusts his dog to navigate to and from NYU every day through Manhattan,” says Rick. “Imagine navigating a city like New York blind—and his dog has given him back that ability. I’m proud to support an organization that makes such a profound impact.”

Rick credits his wife and daughter for his involvement with the organization and says it’s very much a family effort and is proud to accept this year’s award for The Seeing Eye on behalf of them.

Atsa is the Rick family's third Seeing Eye puppy
Atsa is the Rick family's third Seeing Eye puppy.