Guide dogs help our heroes

They're volunteers who help raise little puppies only to give them away.  Why would anyone do that?  It's part of a new mission to help veterans in our area.


"These dogs are transformational.  They change people's lives," said Leslie Shepard.


Leslie began volunteering with Southeastern Guide Dogs after her own son was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.


"It made a huge difference to his hospital experience to be able to pet that dog. It relieved his anxiety, it reminded him of home, it was just a wonderful thing."


Now Leslie's the director of puppy raising services at Southeastern Guide Dogs.  The goal is to help volunteers raise the dogs during the first year, before they go off to guide dog training.


"It's takes a lot of energy, patience, and a huge heart, because you fall in love with puppies. But then you know, that at the end of it, that even though you might want this puppy and love it, there's someone else out there who needs it," she explained.


One of those people is Morgan Watt.  He's been working with his dog Foley for about six months.


"He's just an absolutely incredible dog.  Unbelievable empathetic and just he's completely changed my life."


After serving in the military, Morgan suffered severe headaches.


"Foley is able to sense the migraines when they're coming on, enabling me to take medication before it gets bad enough that I can't do anything about it."


Foley has changed Morgan's life.


"Well, I'm not suicidal like I was, he's completely changed that."


Southeastern Guide dogs now has a special MacDill Puppy Raiser group that allows vets to help their fellow vets.


Colonel Dan Tulley, commander of the 6th Air Mobility Wing, said, "It warms your heart you think of the service men and women they might be able to help, just, words can't articulate how great that is."


For Morgan, there are no words.


"I needed a hug," he said to Foley.  "Thank you, thank you."


He's got so much gratitude for a new friend who gave new meaning to his life.


"I know it saved mine; that I know.  Will it save others?  I think if they can make the connection with their dogs, the way that I've made a connection with mine it undoubtedly will save lives."


If you're interested in volunteering with Southeastern Guide Dogs, check out their website: