Canine Care Technicians Julie Johnes, left, and Nicky Grainey reward Landon with some well-deserved love after a one-on-one play and problem-solving session at the new Keith G. Hirst Canine Assessment Center at Southeastern Guide Dogs in Palmetto.
It's just shy of a regular dog paradise, but for these future working dogs, of which Landon is just one of 29, it's but one stop along their journey. Just as their pawprints start to settle across the floors of the 6,600-square-foot building, they'll be off to the next phase of their careers.
Some will become guide dogs for the visually impaired, others will become highly trained companions for veterans, or perhaps public service or therapy dogs. Within these halls, each dog will be carefully matched to a future career and/or individual.
Over the years, some 5,000 dogs have gone through this same routine, but this is the first group to experience the fancy new digs. And as far as purpose-built buildings go, it may have been built by man, but it was made just for dogs. From the roomy air conditioned kennels with pinch-proof doors leading to outdoor runs, to the soothing music piped into the skylight-lit rooms, it's a tour-de-force of four-legged comfort. It's all designed to make the young dogs, who represent some of the best working dogs from breeders across the country, comfortable while alleviating the stress of being placed into a kennel environment during their assessments.
Ultimately, all of these exceptional dogs will wind up transforming the lives of humans in one way or another. But at the end of a long day of training and observation, nothing beats some lovingly doled out tag-team scratchin'.
To be sure, there is no shortage of love and positivity over at Southeastern Guide Dogs. Hat's off to Southeastern and all their workers, volunteers and donors who help make it happen. "Atta boy!"