More than a dozen guide dogs in training descended on Tampa International Airport on Tuesday night to give the puppies experience in situations they will face with their future handlers.
The dogs, with puppy raisers in tow, sniffed around a busy Main Terminal, rode the airport’s elevators and shuttles and navigated through security. They even walked down a jet bridge and hopped on a plane.
The visit is part of a partnership between Southeastern Guide Dogs, based out of Palmetto, and Tampa International Airport.
“Partnering with Southeastern Guide Dogs benefits both of our organizations,” said Kari Goetz, TPA’s Director of Marketing. “We are able to educate the next class of guide dogs with the traveling tools they need to succeed, and the airport gets a ‘dog’s eye view’ of our facility and finds ways to improve on providing a world-class traveling experience for all of our guests.”
Leslie Shepard, Director of Puppy Raising Services with Southeastern Guide Dogs, says this type of real-world experience is an essential part of the training for their guide dogs.
“We really want to get them used to things they will face as guide dogs with their handlers,” said Shepard. “Flying out of an airport is a very important experience, and something they will likely do frequently. In addition, the airport provides a good opportunity to expose them to a wide-variety of environments, sights, sounds and new people.”
About Southeastern Guide Dogs
Southeastern Guide Dogs, Tampa Bay Business Journal’s 2014 Nonprofit of the Year, has the distinction of being dually accredited by the two premier, global accreditation bodies: the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF) and Assistance Dogs International (ADI). Founded in 1982, the organization employs the latest in canine development and behavior research to create and nurture partnerships between inspiring people and extraordinary guide dogs. Southeastern Guide Dogs serves more than 400 graduates across the U.S. and continues to place more than 100 dogs each year into careers benefiting people with visual impairments and veterans. The charity provides all of its services free of charge and receives no government funding. Website: www.GuideDogs.org