In a ceremony with all the pomp and circumstance of a high school graduation, nine Labrador Retriever puppies were inducted into the Guide Dogs of Texas Puppy Program Saturday afternoon.
Darcy, Duncan, Dasher, Dante, Duke, Dusty, Dexter, Dylan, and Dallas were each given to a volunteer family that will raise and socialize the puppies for the next 14 to 16 months.
After that time, they'll return to the program's training ground for several more years of training before they become certified guide dogs.
"These dogs will be helping Texans across the state gain their mobility and independence," said Gretchen Garceau-Kragh, interim president and CEO of Guide Dogs of Texas.
Ron and Susan Huther said they have been volunteers with the program for a decade and received Dante, their ninth puppy, during the ceremony.
"I made them a deal," Ron said. "If they would drive up to Fredericksburg for their monthly evaluation, then we would raise ten dogs as a minimum."
For the couple, the most emotional part will come in about a year when they have to give Dante back to guide Dogs of Texas.
"People say, 'How can you let the dogs go it must be a sad event?'" Ron said. "We never cry when the dog leaves. It's like having a teenager at some point you say, 'Get out the house and get a job.'"
The dogs that are unable to achieve their certification are re-careered as seizure alert dogs, diabetic alert dogs, or search and rescue dogs.
Guide Dogs of Texas says its breeding program has already raised and trained more than 30 dogs to assist sight-impaired Texans.
The organization says most service dogs are trained on the East or West coasts, and having a breeding and training program based in Texas allows blind persons to obtain a dog without having to travel a long distance.