When I think back over the many stages of my life, they all had one thing in common, there was always a loving dog jumping into my arms, complete loyalty and commitment of a four-legged friend. Man’s best friend running to me, full force, as if I were the only person on earth. What devotion!
Well, that’s what you’ll find at Southeastern Guide Dogs but with exceptional training! These dogs offer complete unconditional love, commitment and loyalty but with phenomenal training. How do they train for such an important role as service dog? It starts early! The dogs are bred for their winning personality and intelligence. Southeastern uses Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers or a combination of both, known as Goldadors. The pups stay on campus until 10 weeks, then they go into a loving volunteer home. The puppy raiser families give them love and training until 14 months, then it's off to formal training for another 6 months, at the Palmetto campus. They learn 40 commands over the course of their training period.
The cost for breeding, whelping, raising, training, matching, and providing follow-up care for the life of the team is $60,000. (both guide dog and handler) according to Jennifer A. Bement - Public Relations.
The goal is to partner a relationship with the dog and owner, that will allow the recipient freedom to live a mobile independent lifestyle. The recipient pays nothing. All funds are privately donated. Students that receive these life changing dogs, live on the beautiful 23 acre campus for 26 days in Palmetto, while they train with their priceless canine.
Some pups make it to the status of guide dog for the blind, while others will have a career change into another service. These dogs may become Veteran Service dogs for veterans living with PTSD, facility therapy dogs at major medical facilities through Southeastern's Paws for Patriots program. There are other options for placement areas for these specially trained canines, even Public Service dogs, for drug detection, Search and Rescue, etc. Some become Ambassador Dogs like, Bagheera, the adorable one pictured above. If you become a volunteer with an Ambassador or one of their breeders you may have the option to adopt them when their term of service is up. The Ambassador dogs are used for a number of jobs including therapy and visits to hospitals, hospice and rehabs.
You can learn more about these wonderful dogs at: http://www.guidedogs.org/ be sure to check out all the volunteer opportunities.
Also check out "Puppy Love" every Saturday in Sarasota from 11am to 1:30 pm, and "Puppy Hugging" and "Dog Walking" happen on campus in Palmetto 9:00 – 11:00 am every day except Thursday and Sunday.
Visit and share some love with these wonderful animals. If you have young children take a look at their BARC program, Be A Reader to Canines (which allows young readers to be themselves while learning to read)