Local charity seeks animal lovers

August 26, 2009 3:58:21 PM PDT
When you first meet Brinkley, you might think this two-year-old black lab is just like any other puppy. He's affectionate and gentle, even with an 18-month-old toddler. But, Brinkley has a very important job. He's being trained to be a guide dog for a visually-impaired person. "These dogs do a fantastic job," Guide Dogs of Texas instructor Nick Toni, said. "They change lives overnight."

Toni has watched dozens of his dogs create a new life for clients, many of whom have been house-bound due to disability.

"To get out there and stretch out and walk and just get on with doing what everybody does, to go to shops and work, it's all done through these animals," Toni said. "It's fantastic really."

The charity is now looking for families to play host to dogs like Brinkley while they are being trained. It's a chance for Houston families to enjoy the dog's company while helping a great cause.

The dogs need homes on weekday nights and weekends for 3 to 7 months. During the day they're in training. Brinkley's been working hard for 3 months, and in another 6 weeks he could be ready to change someone's life, or even save it.

One of the skills that Brinkley has already mastered is how to navigate around objects or people that might be in the owner's way.

Becoming a guide dog boarder is free -- all of the food and vet care is paid for. You will need to go through an interview to be sure you and your home are a good fit.

"This is a great opportunity to have a dog in the house have a well-trained, relaxed dog that's good with children," Toni said.

The charity is hoping to train 10 dogs this year. The dogs are then sold to their owners for $1, a fee that makes their ownership contracts legal. But, what these dogs provide is priceless.

"They amaze me," Toni said. "They always amaze me." If you want to host a dog you will need transportation and you have to be able to house the dog inside.

For more information on how to volunteer or become a dog boarder, visit the Guide Dogs of Texas website at www.guidedogsoftexas.org.

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