Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

A Southeastern Guide Dog is sponsored by city of Clearwater

CLEARWATER

After she and Sunny — a puppy wearing a blue "Guide Dog in Training" cape — were turned away from Clearwater's Sea-Blues Festival at Coachman Park in February, Stephanie Miller turned to the city's Facebook page. "Sorry that we won't be able to hear (the musical lineup). My Southeastern Guide Dog in training and I were just denied access to the venue," she wrote.

That's after she had pointed out the pup's blue cape, provided credentials and quoted a Florida law that says any service dog in training has the same public access rights as a working dog.

After reading Miller's post, Joelle Castelli, the city's public communications director, responded with a heartfelt apology and assurance it wouldn't happen again.

"Our tail is between our legs," Castelli posted. "Can we buy your pup a dog biscuit?"

But Miller, Pinellas County Schools' Exceptional Student Education Coordinator, had a better idea: Would the city sponsor a Southeastern Guide Dog pup?

She would, she said, raise not only the puppy, but awareness about guide dogs, their role in the lives of the visually impaired, and their public access rights.

Castelli and Mayor George Cretekos were intrigued and visited the Southeastern Guide Dogs campus in Palmetto.

It only took a few wet puppy kisses from some bouncy Labrador retrievers for Cretekos to be swayed.

"There is no way you are not going to fall in love with those puppies," he said. "Plus, it was the right thing to do. Coastie is an ambassador, not only for us, but to make people aware of the need out there to help others."

Southeastern Guide Dogs, in business for 30 years, is one of 12 accredited guide dog schools in the nation and the only one in the southeast United States.

So far, about 2,600 Southeastern Guide Dog teams have been created. It costs about $60,000 to fund a guide dog team from breeding to training to matching with a recipient and lifetime followup care. There is no cost to the receiver of a guide dog.

For their $3,500 puppy training sponsorship, Clearwater received naming rights. Officials chose the moniker "Coastie" in honor of the city's recent designation as a Coast Guard City.

The yellow Lab is now 7 months old. His photo graces the cover of the fall issue of My Clearwater, a magazine published by the city.

He is one of about 260 puppies — Labs, golden retrievers, and "goldadors" (a mix of the two breeds) — being raised now by volunteer puppy raisers like Miller who teach basic obedience skills and expose the puppies to everyday life.

Coastie is Miller's third guide puppy. She received him at 9 weeks old and will keep him for 12 to 15 months. Then he'll work with a certified guide dog trainer for another six to nine months to learn at least 40 commands. After that, he will be paired up with his new owner.

Miller knows when the time comes to say goodbye, it will be a bittersweet moment.

"It's like sending your child off to college, not knowing if or when you will see them again.

"I may want the dog, but I know someone else needs the dog."

.Fast facts

Southeastern Guide Dogs

To donate money, volunteer, raise puppies, provide host homes or learn more about Southeastern Guide Dogs, located in Palmetto, visit www.guidedogs.org.

A Southeastern Guide Dog is sponsored by city of Clearwater 10/06/12 [Last modified: Sunday, October 7, 2012 3:56pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. DOT shows alternatives to former Tampa Bay Express toll lanes

    Transportation

    TAMPA — State transportation officials are evaluating at least a half-dozen alternatives to the controversial Tampa Bay interstate plan that they will workshop with the community for the next 18 months.

    Florida Department of Transportation consultant Brad Flom explains potential alternatives to adding toll lanes to Interstate 275 during a meeting Wednesday at DOT's Tampa office. Flom presented seven diagrams, all of which swapped toll lanes for transit, such as light rail or express bus, in the I-275 corridor from downtown Tampa to Bearss Ave. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON | Times]
  2. Florida Orchestra and Tampa Bay Master Chorale scrap search for a joint conductor

    Stage

    TAMPA — After a yearlong effort, the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay and the Florida Orchestra have abandoned their search for a conductor capable of leading both groups.

    Doreen Rao conducts a concert with the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus and Orchestra in December 2010. Photo by Enid Bloch.
  3. New in theaters July 4 weekend: 'Despicable Me 3,' 'Baby Driver,' 'The House,' 'The Beguiled'

    Movies

    OPENING Thursday:

    DESPICABLE ME 3

    One of Hollywood's most successful animation franchises isn't about "me" anymore; it's about them.

    Gru (Steve Carell) squares off against Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker) in Despicable Me 3.
  4. Uhurus cancel Baker protest

    Blogs

    Jesse Nevel's campaign had planned to stage an anti-Rick Baker protest outside the St. Petersburg Yacht Club this evening while Baker held a fundraiser inside.

    Now, that's not happening.

    Jesse Nevel's Uhuru-affiliated campaign postpones protest
  5. Claim: State pressured CFO, used secret recordings to shut down Universal Health Care

    Banking

    ST. PETERSBURG — The founder of St. Petersburg's Universal Health Care alleges that Florida regulators conspired with the company's chief financial officer to drive the once high-flying Medicare insurer out of business.

    Federal agents raided the headquarters of Universal Health Care in 2013, ordering employees to leave the building. The insolvent St. Petersburg Medicare insurer was then in the process of being liquidated by state regulators.
[DIRK SHADD   |   Times file photo]