A guide dog never forgets its trainer

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. - A guide dog's first love is his puppy raiser. But usually when he's old enough, his puppy raiser returns him to the trainers at Southeastern Guide Dogs and they never see that person that they loved so much again. But Tuesday, Mason the guide dog got a surprise visit from his puppy raiser.

It was a Joyful reunion as Mason, now guide dog to Sue Spicer, met his puppy raiser, Jennifer Vare for the first time since they parted.

Jennifer misses him deeply, but..."It makes me feel so happy. I see him with Sue, and it makes me feel proud that I was able to help change someone's life."

And although Mason is so happy to see Jennifer, it's Sue he settles down next to. He knows this is where he belongs now. "I'm totally blind, and Mason helps me get exercise,” says Sue.

And he brings her very great gifts. “Independence…and love and companionship -- all because of Jennifer, all because of a puppy raiser."

Mason lived with Jennifer for about 16 months, and they were inseparable. "He was glued to my side. You get very attached, but there is someone else that needs them."

She made a book for his new owner, showing his puppy years. And now she’s thrilled to see him fulfilling the role he was born for.

And the two women in his life are happy to share his love. "He loves two people; he loves Sue, and he loves me, but he knows he belongs with Sue."

Mason is one of many Southeastern guide dogs who will go to new owners this year. “We place between 80 and 90 guide dog teams,” says director of development Andy Kramer.

And to those, like Sue, who receive the guide dogs, they make a world of difference. "They say it makes people live longer, and I do believe that."

There is no cost to the person who receives the guide dog. And to help with the costs, Southeastern Guide Dogs is holding a walkathon at Payne Park in Sarasota on Saturday morning. Registration is at 8:30, and the walk steps off at 10am.