By Sarah Bey
In Patterson Park in Austin, Texas, some of man’s best friends will graduate from the Guide Dogs of Texas School. Guide Dogs of Texas is a non-profit organization based in San Antonio and is one of the 11 internationally accredited schools by the Guide Dog Federation.
Guide Dogs of Texas Marketing Manager April Meddlin said the dogs start training as soon as they are born. She also said the two-year process leads up to the moment all clients and guide dogs wait forgraduation. After graduating, the dogs help their clients through their daily lives for an estimated eight to ten years.
“With these clients and their dogs, I mean we’ve heard stories of life-changing events-life saving events,” Meddlin said. “They were walking and the dog literally got in front of them and you know, he heard like a bus pass by and you know he feels his dog, Jared feels that Seemore got in front of him and saved his life that day. That’s what we teach them to trust the dog.”
Meddlin said many of the clients give back for the gift Guide Dogs of Texas gave them. “I’ve met Carol out in Buler, Texas and she’s a visually impaired lady that has her second guide dog as well,” Meddlin said. “She always says, ‘I appreciate dearly what you guys have done for me and I can’t afford to give money but I can give talent. She knits–she knitted a big blanket–60 inches by 60 inches and sent it to us. They continue to consider us family and want to give back. So, I can’t say there isn’t a story that hasn’t touched my heart.”
In honor of these stories, Guide Dogs of Texas will celebrate their volunteers, recent graduates, donors and a $40,000 check presentation from The PetCo Foundation at the graduation. Some lucky humans will also receive trophies for their work in raising the puppies with their program called Pawsitive Approach. Pawsitive Approach allows inmates who were non-violent offenders to raise the pups from the Dominguez jail facility in San Antonio and Travis County facility in Austin. Meddlin said some of the program’s best dogs come from them because of how dedicated the men are.
“Anybody that’s there that day will have the opportunity to hear about each little piece of the puzzle that makes that team happen,” Meddlin said. “The dogs cost us $50,000 to breed, raise, and train and we give them to the client for one dollar. So, you know, I think anybody that can hear that statement will see why we exist and the lives that we change as we do.”
The graduation will take place next Saturday at Patterson Park in Austin from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Meddlin encourages those who cannot attend the event to do more research on their website.