you learned all about Southeastern Guide Dogs. In this edition, we’ll share how you can get involved.
Have you ever wondered how many people it takes to raise and train a guide dog? Well, Southeastern Guide Dogs has figured that at least 368 people each have a hand in breeding, whelping, raising and training the wonderful dogs they provide to the visually impaired at no charge.
You may wonder how they manage to do that. Well, it’s because of their large group of loyal volunteers. Here is a snapshot of the different volunteer opportunities available at Southeastern:
What would you say if you were told you could have all the joy of having a puppy in the house for at least a year, and then have the most rewarding experience ever? Well, by becoming a Puppy Raiser for Southeastern Guide Dogs, you can! Volunteer Puppy Raisers receive velvety bundles of energy when they are just nine weeks old and spend the next year loving, nurturing, training and exposing these special pups to the wide world so that when they are paired up with a visually impaired person, they will be unflappable guides.
Southeastern has Puppy Raisers all over the southeastern United States, and since there are approximately 200-225 puppies born on campus every year, there is always a need for a loving home in which they can get the solid base needed to be a confident guide.
Breeder Host Homes
There are many ways to volunteer at Southeastern Guide Dogs, but here’s one you may not have thought of — how about just loving and caring for a dog? In order to produce the traits required for successful guide dogs, Southeastern manages their own breeding colony of dogs, selected specifically for their intelligence, temperament, hardiness, soundness and trainability. The dogs in the breeding program are not housed on campus, so they need loving homes in which to live when they don’t have business at the school.
Breeder hosts open their homes and hearts to care for these special dogs during their reproductive years and are required to live within 100 miles of the Palmetto campus so that they may return the dogs when their service is required or when it’s time for puppies to be delivered. After the dogs have completed the breeding program, many host families adopt the dogs and continue to enjoy their company as a family pet for years to come.
Ambassador Dog Handlers
Would you like to spend your spare time spreading Southeastern’s mission and possibly brighten someone’s day? If so, being an Ambassador Dog Handler may be right up your alley.
Ambassador Dogs and their Handlers are the face of Southeastern in public, representing the organization at a myriad of local events and speaking to groups wanting to learn more about the program and services. They also visit nursing homes, hospitals, hospice homes, schools and the like to bring that special unconditional love of the four-legged variety. Dogs for this program are specially selected for their exceptional manners in public and their empathetic demeanor.
The Southeastern Guide Dogs campus offers numerous volunteer opportunities tailored just for your skill set. Enjoy working outside and getting your hands dirty? The grounds crew can always use a hand! Really love puppies? “Hugger Helpers” spend their time on campus making sure the puppies are always safe and sound, and volunteers in the Early Puppy Socialization Program give the pups a head start on things they may come across when sent off to their Puppy Raisers.
Excellent at organization? Volunteers in the administration office help to keep things running smoothly and efficiently. Like to meet new people and make them feel at home? Our Student Enrichment Program strives to give the students the best possible experience while in the 26-day intensive training course on campus. Volunteers spend time with the students during down time from training to foster the relaxed, friendly atmosphere for which Southeastern is known.
Dog Walkers & Puppy Huggers
Want to spend some time with exceptional dogs and cuddly puppies without the responsibility of actually bringing them into your home? Every day (except Sunday and Thursday), Southeastern Guide Dogs invites the general public in from 9-11 a.m. to help socialize the puppies in Puppy Hugging sessions. This playtime for the pups and the public allows the puppies to be exposed to a wide variety of people (an important part of socialization) and the public gets to experience puppy breath — a win-win! The older dogs who have been returned to the campus for formal harness training (canine college) also get to spend some time with the public during dog walking on campus — great exercise for both the dogs and the volunteers.
As you can see, there are lots of ways you can help out at Southeastern Guide Dogs. Some other opportunities to lend a hand are helping with special events, hosting a fundraiser, joining the Speaker’s Bureau or helping spread the word about Southeastern and the services available. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and the same is true of a guide dog, so the next time you are looking for a way to fill up some spare time, give Southeastern Guide Dogs a call 941-729-5665.