Service to Others


It takes a special family to open their hearts and their home to a stranger, but that’s what LETU 2005 alumni Rebecca and Eric Minelga have done, not just once, but 10 times, all for the benefit of others.

In the past dozen years, the Minelgas, with their sons Oliver, 7, and Sebastian, 2, have opened their Snohomish, Washington, home (near Seattle) to 10 strangers—Sarita, Nuance, Roxanne, Star, Rubina, Joy, Primrose, Joanne, Tucson and, now, Winnipeg—all soft, cuddly, Labrador Retriever puppies they have raised for Guide Dogs for the Blind.

“We prefer blondes,” she said, laughing, since all the puppies they have trained have been yellow Labs.

“Service, sacrifice, and loving others with our actions, these values were supported, shaped and clarified by our education at LETU,” Rebecca said. “I loved it!  I felt it did so much to prepare us to go out into the world.”

Rebecca and Eric met as students at LETU.  Originally from Boston, Massachusetts, Rebecca had chosen LETU as her “backup plan” that God used when her first choice fell through.  Eric, originally from Soldotna, Alaska, always had LETU engineering education in mind.

They married in May 2004.  Rebecca grins when she says that getting a dog might have been an unwritten pre-nuptial agreement, since Eric knew she had wanted a dog for 20 years. 

“As soon as we can get a dog, we’re getting a dog,” she said, and Eric agreed.  After the couple graduated in December of 2005, they moved to Washington for Eric to work as an engineer for Boeing, and in February 2006, they got a dog of their own—an Australian Cattle Dog they named “Tag.”

“The dog we got was a basket case,” Rebecca said. “He was incredibly smart, high-strung, prey-motivated, and he snapped at anything that moved.  We couldn’t take him anywhere out in public.  We adopted him because I fell in love with him. I didn’t know what to do with him.  I read every dog book out there to try to train this dog.  We finally got him to a point that he was livable and could go backpacking and hiking with us.” 

But despite Tag’s behaviors, Rebecca was hooked as a dog lover. 

The desire to raise a guide dog puppy became a “bucket list” item for Rebecca when she was in middle school after she read the book “Follow My Leader” about a boy blinded by fireworks.  The boy’s life changes dramatically when he gains independence after being given a trained guide dog of his own.

After seeing a guide dog demonstration at a 4H county fair in Washington state, Rebecca’s husband, Eric, told her to pursue puppy raising.

“Our puppy raising started out as my project, but over the years, it’s become our project,” Rebecca said.

“Eric knows it’s important. He stays home with our kids so I can attend meetings, and he is a part of their training, even taking the dogs to work with him to become socialized in an office environment.”

Eric, an engineer at Boeing since 2006, today is responsible for overseeing the interior designs on new Boeing aircraft.   

Rebecca makes it clear that the work she does raising puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind is very much a ministry, not a business.  Guide Dogs for the Blind owns all the dogs. The Minelgas volunteer and cover the cost of food, toys and supplies. 

“We believe Jesus cares for everybody, and He wants us to serve others,” she said. “Matthew 5:16 says we are to ‘Let your light shine before men that they may see your work and glorify your God in heaven.’  I very much see it as a ministry.”

In May of 2015, the Minelgas were invited to participate in a documentary project that followed a litter of five puppies from their birth through the entire training process.  The story provides a heartwarming, insider’s look at the training of five sibling puppies: Patriot, Phil, Poppet, Potomac and Primrose.

“We raised one of the puppies (Primrose) and were featured as one of the more experienced raising families,” she said. “That film, ‘Pick of the Litter,’ premiered in Park City, Utah in January 2018 and has since won multiple international film festival awards.” Today the movie is available on Amazon Prime.

Rebecca said the experience of having a film crew come visit for a couple of days every few months was a little unnerving, but worth it. She attended the movie’s national theater release, describing the experience as surreal when she saw herself and her family up on the big screen, but added that what really surprised her was seeing a photo of her son, Oliver, and dog, Primrose,  splashed all over the side of a city bus in San Jose, California, promoting the release of the movie.

“We love having the opportunity to tell our story and share more about our passion for this organization,” she said.

Rebecca speaks and teaches on the spiritual aspects of raising guide dogs and has written a memoir about their experiences.

“We don’t yank them by the collar, we do positive reinforcement,” she said. “It is a process like being perfected in your faith. We are teaching the dogs to be perfected in their training. There are so many parallels between training the dogs and my own faith journey.”