Southwest FL – Levi and his handler Karen Conkel received many cheers and “appaws” during their presentation at our August luncheon, and the membership left with a strong appreciation for the amazing things happening at Southeastern Guide Dogs.
A brief video showed the selective and intensive training process that the puppies go through before being assigned to their humans. Only 50% of them graduate the program and are proficient enough to act as a guide or service dog. Karen discussed the different types of training that the dogs receive depending on their temperament and specific future role.
Levi has an interesting backstory; named for a Vietnam Veteran donor who hoped that Levi would help someone with PTSD, Levi unfortunately was determined to have a hip problem, and was unable to be designated a service dog. But having a wonderful disposition, he became an Ambassador dog.
Southeastern Guide Dogs is nonprofit and doesn’t receive government funds. Donors like Levi’s namesake make their work possible and recipients of the dogs pay nothing. Karen described her path to becoming a volunteer, and how rewarding the experience has been. She invited the audience to sign up for a tour of the facility in Palmetto, and to consider getting involved.
The guide dogs provide many different types of assistance and comfort; people with vision loss can gain the independence they need to live life to its fullest, and veterans with PTSD are able to emerge from seclusion and overcome anxiety. The dogs can assist wounded veterans with challenges such as balance issues, seizures, and hearing loss; and they also serve as emotional support dogs, Gold Star Family dogs, and facility therapy dogs (e.g. Walter Reed and Camp LeJeune Hospitals).
More information can be found at https://www.guidedogs.org/.
MOAS is the Sarasota Chapter of Military Officers Association of America. MOAA is the nation’s largest and most influential association of military officers with 370,000 members. It is an independent, nonprofit, politically nonpartisan organization. For more information visit, www.sarasotamoaa.com Are you a former military officer? Please come and join us at our monthly luncheon.