Importance of Guide Dog Awareness Month

September is National Guide Dog Month and here in the Coastal Bend there are only a handful of visually impaired who use guide dogs.

Sarah Acosta spoke with one of those owners about how his dog changed his life after he lost his eye sight.

Albany has been a companion guide dog for Tommy Rodriguez' eyes since 2009. Rodriguez lost his sight in a chemical accident in 2006. He says Albany has changed his life for the past eight years, helping him with day to day tasks that most people take for granted.

"If there's a branch and he can see that it's almost at my head level he'll stop and sure enough if you feel if there's a branch in front of you, you can duck down and say go ahead boy," says Rodriguez.

Rodriguez has a full time job in the production line at the South Texas Lighthouse for the blind manufacturing facility. He says without Albany, he wouldn't be able to get to and from his job independently or easily get around at work.

"When he has his harness on he knows he's at work, there's no time to play. He knows when he has something to take care of and get it done," says Rodriguez.

Local orientation and mobility specialist Joyce Lopez says a significant amount of money and training goes into guide dogs. It can cost up to $50,000 to train one. She says she is fortunate she gets to work with Rodriguez and Albany.

"I get to stand back and watch and to watch them in action and see what they learned and to be able to do it with such ease and confidence," said Lopez

Rodriguez says Albany is not just his mobile life line, but also his best friend.

"He senses if I'm going through trouble or say if i'm sitting down, a little down, he'll come next to me and put his head right up on me and let me know he's there for me," said Rodriguez.

With guide dog awareness month, Rodriguez wants to educate the public with proper guide dog etiquette. He says to never pet or walk up to a guide dog when it has its harness on. If a child would like to play with the dog, respectfully ask the owner and they can take off the dog's harness for petting or interaction.


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