Though Southeastern Guide Dogs is a relatively new school, having been founded in 1982, they provide a broad array of services. In addition to offering comprehensive guide dog training, the school also prepares dogs not suited for guide work to serve in other careers. Those careers include: arson detection, bomb detection, and drug detection. Some dogs also serve as ambassadors for the school.
Working with an ambassador involves taking the dog to different facilities to discuss the programs that Southeastern Guide Dogs offer. Ambassador dogs and their handlers also familiarize people with the work of guide and other service dogs. Unlike guide dogs, which can be taken anywhere under applicable federal legislation, ambassador dogs lack that legal protection.
Regarding training persons with vision impairments, Southeastern calls their program, “Paws for Independence.” Guide dog teams start their training at Southeastern’s quiet campus in Palmetto, Florida (The school also has campuses in Bradenton and Sarasota). As students become more comfortable and confident, their guide work progresses to busy streets, shopping malls, and urban areas. Southeastern also has a program which specifically targets veterans whose physical disabilities developed as a result of combat. The program which enables these service men and women to be paired with dogs is called, “Paws for Patriots.” As with most guide dog schools, the services of Southeastern Guide Dogs are free of charge.
A final note on this school’s unique services is that students begin their training by getting to hug puppies to get them socialized and ready for future training–and really, who doesn’t love hugging puppies?
To contact Southeastern Guide Dogs, write to: 4210 77th Street East, Palmetto, Florida 34221; phone: 941-729-5665; Fax: 941-729-6646. The school can also be e-mailed through their website at http://www.guidedogs.org/index.php?page=contact-us
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