Mar 24, 2024

8 service dogs trained in Irving head to new homes after graduation

By Caroline Vandergriff

February 10, 2023 / 5:09 PM / CBS Texas

IRVING, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) Eight service dogs trained in North Texas are now beginning their new lives with children, adults and veterans with disabilities.

They graduated from the Canine Companions at Baylor Scott & White Health – Kinkeade Campus in Irving on Friday, in front of an audience of supporters and four legged friends.

It's a day about two years in the making.

"We've been very excited to be a part of this wonderful organization because of their mission and purpose and the fact that they provide these wonderful dogs at no charge to the people who need them," said Judy Eastburn, who spent months volunteering as a "puppy raiser" for Canine Companions.

The volunteer puppy raisers typically spend 18 months with a dog, socializing them and teaching them 30 basic commands, before they go to the Canine Companions campus for about six months of professional training.

For the past two weeks, the dogs have been working and bonding with their new handlers.

"Picking things up that I drop, opening doors, turning on light switches," said Steve Blackman, a retired Army sergeant. "She'll also be able to tug on drawers, close drawers, get into the refrigerator if I need her to."

Blackman already knows how much a service dog will improve his life. His first one passed away last fall after 11 years together.

He says the dog helped him cope with losing eight of his friends in Iraq.

"Before you know it, you're living a brand new life than what you had before," Blackman said. "Your depression's gone, your anxiety is starting to go away, and all these things are starting to happen they never taught you in class. They didn't teach the dog. It's just your bonding with the dog that inevitably causes it."

Blackman can't wait to see how the next chapter unfolds with Priscilla, the dog Eastburn and her husband raised.

They passed her leash to Blackman and his wife at the graduation ceremony.

"We knew when we took on the role of puppy raiser that she would leave us one day, and we are so excited she's going to be a part of Steve's household," Eastburn said.

Established in 1975, Canine Companions has six regions across the country serving all 50 states. The South Central Region training center, the Baylor Scott & White – Kinkeade Campus, is located in Irving, Texas and serves the states of Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas.

Caroline Vandergriff joined the CBS 11 News team in September 2019. She grew up in Arlington (go Lamar Vikings!), and is thrilled to be back home in North Texas.

First published on February 10, 2023 / 5:09 PM

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