Elkins High FFA students training future guide dogs

MISSOURI CITY, Texas (KTRK) -- Some Elkins High school students are spending their school year training puppies to become life-changing companions.

For the second year in a row, Elkins FFA students Sloan James and Kassidi Davis are serving as puppy-raisers for the non-profit Southeastern Guide Dogs.

"Southeastern Guide Dogs is an organization that breeds dogs and trains dogs for people who are blind or veterans with PTSD," said Kassidi, a senior at Elkins High School. "I wanted to be a part of it because of how it changes someone's life."

The students received their puppies, Buster and Steve, over the summer when the dogs were just three months old. By the end of the school year, the goal is for Buster and Steve to become guide dogs or service dogs.

"First, they learn the basics, where they sit, stay," said Elkins High FFA Advisor Elizabeth Martin. "It's called puppy kindergarten."

Once the dogs master basic commands, they earn their training jackets and are able to accompany their trainers to class.

"They go everywhere," said Kassidi. "We first started out with small stores like CVS and Walgreens. As they get older, we begin taking them to places like school."

"It's a perfect training ground for Steve because there are lots of people," said Sloan, who is also a senior.

The students try to expose the dogs to a variety of environments and social settings.

"Right now, he's trying to get through his distraction of people approaching him," said Kassidi. "When people approach him, he gets a little excited and tries to jump on them. So we're trying to teach him that he has to sit first in order for people to pet him."

At the end of the school year, the dogs return to the Southeastern Guide Dog campus in Florida, where the students present them to their new handlers at a graduation ceremony.

"We all love the dogs we raise," said Kassidi. "But someone else needs the dog."

"There were 350 people on the waiting list for a dog, so it means a lot," said Sloan.

For more information on Southeastern Guide Dogs, click here.

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