School helps man’s best friend

MELBOURNE | Dogs are said to be man’s best friend and guide dogs certainly fit the bill. Helping the partnership is Melbourne Central Catholic High School’s National Honor Society (NHS). This is the third year they are sponsoring puppy training for individuals with vision loss. The newest guide dog on the block is Dooley, named in honor of Coach Tom Dooley’s 30 years at Melbourne Central Catholic (MCC).

NHS members raised $4,500 through car washes and raffle ticket sales. The cost covers one year of training for the Southeastern Guide Dogs puppies, earning the right to name them. The new puppy is Dooley, a Golden Retriever – Labrador mix named in honor of Tom Dooley, dean of students, head baseball coach and Space Coast Sports Hall of Famer. His faithful guidance of MCC students for 30 years falls in line with the tenacity and commitment required to train a dog that is to care for others. “What a fantastic honor it is to have this particular dog named Dooley!” said Coach Dooley. “He is adorable, but more importantly will do such great things with his training by serving others. I have been blessed with my time at MCC. I am truly honored to be a part of a great family at MCC.” Coach Dooley is grateful for the guide dogs’ service to disabled veterans. He said the tribute also honors Jon Gifford, a MCC award-winning graduate who played baseball for Dooley and lost his life in Afghanistan.

NHS coordinator Anita Kealer notes, “The first dog, Riley, is now a working guide for a visually impaired handler, and the second, Cisco, is still in training.” In the past, the dogs were trained on campus, but due to new regulations, trainer John Sperling will take on the task. He promises to visit the campus during Dooley’s 14 months of socialization to show off his progress.

“Socializing a future guide dog on campus directly supported our Franciscan charism,” explained Kealer. “We cared for two of God’s creatures every day for 14 months and then said goodbye knowing that, as a school community, we did our best to prepare them for a higher purpose. We raised loving, confident future service dogs.” She adds, “True service should be a sacrifice. It was difficult to return (the dogs) to Southeastern Guide Dogs for the final phase of their training.” Perhaps this time around, it will be a little easier.

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic – July 1, 2019