Over the years, Southeastern Guide Dogs has improved the lives of thousands

Southeastern Guide Dogs started with one trainer and three dogs. Since then, things have changed.

They first launched in 1982 in Apollo Beach. A few years later, they moved to Palmetto. Today, Southeastern Guide Dogs has graduated more than 3,100 guide dogs and service dog teams. They live all over the United States.  

The puppies are born at the facility and live their early lives here. Then training begins.

Volunteer puppy raisers take them for a year and a half.  Southeastern Guide Dogs' Titus Herman said yes, they bring them back, too.  

"Imagine taking the puppy home.  Bonding with the puppy.  Training the puppy.  And then, bringing it back,” he explained. “Only a special person is capable of that sacrifice."  

When the dogs come back to Southeastern Guide Dogs, they are assessed to determine what kind of dog they will grow up to be, like a guide dog or service dog. 

RELATED: Inside look at Southeastern Guide Dogs' Puppy Academy

The last step of the process is matching the dog with the human. They leave together at no cost to the person. 

It costs thousands of dollars to raise and train these dogs. All that money comes from private donations; they receive no government funding.