I have been a puppy raiser for SEGDI for the past ten years and am currently raising my 8th dog. It is a joy and an honor to be involved with the raising and training of one of the noblest animals in existence - a working dog. SEGDI treats it's puppy raisers with great respect and gratitude. They make it clear that the program would not exist without us.
Very simply, I have never felt more cared for and respected as I did at SEGDI! My first guide dog is ready to retire, and I am going back to SEGDI in 3 weeks to train with her successor dog. This organization is so true to their Mission Statement. Harvard Business School should take a lesson from them!
Where to start!!! My husband & I have been involved with SEGD for 3+ years as puppy raisers. We love our "job" .....in fact this is one of the best "jobs" I've ever had....if we could put a price on our experience it would be in the millions of dollars! I must say that the puppies we have raised have changed my life! Having a disability myself I was on the shy side, would never approach someone I didn't know, etc. All that has changed now....when we have our puppy with us we meet so many people and I find myself chatting to each and everyone of them about the school, puppy raising, etc. The school is just beautiful.....beautiful on the outside and beautiful on the inside. You couldn't have a better staff working for SEGD.....friendly, outgoing, professional.....We had the opportunity to attend a graduation and it was just wonderful to see the students with their new best buds and hearing their story!
On a warm afternoon, 2008, I entered the front door of an unfamiliar building where I would spend nearly a month in training with my first dog from Southeastern Guide Dogs. Through the years, each of my six other dogs had played an important part in my life, leading me to and from work, helping me walk to stores and parks with my three children, and accompanying me through air ports and train stations. These dogs had helped me navigate street crossings and locate curbs and stairs, find doors, and make my way into banks and restaurants. Even after the children grew up and moved out, I depended on a dog to help me get around. But in March, I was nervous. I knew what to expect from a guide dog, but I had no idea what to expect from Southeastern. What an incredible experience! The trainers really knew their stuff. They handled the dogs with expertise, skill and love. They also worked patiently with each student, giving clear instructions and making themselves available to answer our questions. The rest of the staff were equally as helpful and accommodating. They did their best to make us feel comfortable in our temporary home away from home. I respect the trainers at Southeastern for hours of dedication, teaching dogs over 40 commands. And I am deeply grateful to the puppy raisers, who provide the basic foundation upon which the rest of the training is built. Southeastern Guide Dogs offers an excellent opportunity for blind and visually impaired individuals, like myself, to get the most out of life, with freedom and independence.
We became part of the Southeastern Guide Dog "family' just over two years ago when we volunterred to be puppy raisers. This was a very, very positive experience. We were so impressed with the Southeastern facility, with the staff and with the care given to the puppies that we knew instantly that this was an organization we would be proud to be a part of. We were assigned to a puppy raising group near to our home. Again, we were impressed with the level of dedication of our Area Co-ordinator and the Puppy Trainer. In fact, everyone involved, we found, were willing to assist us when needed. The level of training these puppies received is top notch. The end result, of course, is this wonderful 'gift' of a guide dog and a companion to some worthy individual. Southeaster Guide Dogs, without a doubt, deserves a five star rating.
I LOVE THE ENTIRE EXPERIENCE OF BEING A GUIDE DOG USER. SOUTHEASTERN GIVES US A PROFESSIONAL EDUCATION IN USING A GUIDE DOG AND AT THE SAME TIME THEY MAKE YOU A PART OF THE "FAMILY OF SOUTHEASTERN". THE ATMOSPHERE FOR YOURSELF AND YOUR DOG IS THE BEST IN THE COUNTRY. I AM VERY PROUD TO BELONG TO THE SOUTHEASTERN EXPERIENCE. I HAVE MY SECOND DOG NOW AND PLAN TO ENJOY MANY YEARS ENJOYING THIS WONDERFUL GIFT. THANKS TO THE GREAT STAFF OF SOUTHEASTERN. GLORIA MARRYATT
I have been a guide dog user for Southeastern for minny years I would not go to another school. Danny is my 3rd dog and he is the best yet. I love him and I know he loves me. He is my first boy dog. He is the Lions Clubs Mascot.. I just want to thank the school for changing my life.
I have been raising a SEGD puppy for the last eight months. She is my first puppy and I wasn't sure what to expect in the way of support. From our first visit to a puppy raiser meeting we found the unwavering support of all the SEGD staff and volunteers. Their commitment to the guide dog cause is amazing and they go out of their way to help raisers find the best way to help produce a wonderful guide dog for the blind. The volunteer area coordinators are the most helpful and dedicated people you could ever meet. They work tirelessly to help each of the raisers with any needs.Working with SEGD has been a wonderful experience.
I am a Puppy Raiser for Southeastern Guide Dogs and I have to say that I love raising for this organization. Southeastern offers so much support and encouragement to all the puppy raisers that they have. The staff are always so friendly and willing to please. The environment at the school is so relaxing. Everyone makes you feel right at home. I love raising for Southeastern and I will continue to do so!
I am a puppy raiser with Southeastern Guide Dogs and I have to tell you that the support and assistance that they give their volunteers is far beyond what I ever expected to receive. They provide guidance and constructive feedback to aid a puppy raiser through every step of the puppy's training. I couldn't be more pleased with the strengths that their knowledge of guide dogs provides to a blind person independence, at totally no cost to the handicapped individual.
From my perspective as a client and new guide dog user, I can only say that Southeastern Guide Dogs runs a facility that is wonderful. Their mission to provide highly trained guide dogs to visually impaired individuals at no cost to them is met and exceeded in every way. The facility itself is lovely; the trainers are first rate and the entire staff is warm, friendly and helpful. That they do this with only private donations and an army of generous volunteers is impressive beyond words. The beautiful dog that is now my constant companion has opened up my world again to the extent that I'm only sorry I didn't do this years earlier. To sum up, I simply can't say enough good things about Southeastern Guide Dogs; the facility, program and people.
As a guide dog user myself, I can honestly say that Southeastern Guide Dogs is one of the finist traning facilities in the USA. The entire staff work hard to see to it that not only do the dogs get the best training and treatment afforded but that the students and graduates are their number one concern. The grounds are set up to train for every situation and the students go through a series of different sceniros in order to assure that they can handle anything they come across in the real world working with their guide dog as a team. The school has people there to help even before you start your training to counsel you on what you need to do in order to obtain a guide dog, how to do it, and what is involved. Then once you have graduated they have a team of GAC (Graduate Advisory Council) that is there 24/7/365 to assist with any problems or questions you may have. I would have to say this is the number one school for anyone looking to get a guide dog and proud to say that I am a graduate myself.
I have been a guide dog user for all my adult life. Over the years, I’ve had dogs from two schools. By far the best dogs I’ve had have been my last five – all Southeastern Guide Dogs. The level of training of these dogs is remarkable. Their personalities, temperament and abilities are outstanding. I want to commend the puppy raisers who give so tirelessly of their time and effort to help produce these amazing dogs and I want to commend the training staff at Southeastern for their exceptional accomplishments. I go to work every day with my dog by my side; traveling safely and independently. He is my guide, my companion and my friend. I have Southeastern to thank for him, for the training I received and for the follow up services I continue to receive. I know the school couldn’t do it without generous donors and I want to thank them as well and point out the value of their support to my ability to conduct an active and meaningful life.
4 stars is a really good score from me. I'm not sure any organization would get 5 stars. I've always thought Southeastern has a great mission and program, but I've been most impressed with the improvements made the last couple of years. There has been a renewed commitment to quality that I have seen in terms of service to the students of the school; health and well being of the dogs; responsiveness to volunters; and, appreciation of donors. I hope Southeastern keeps up its good work.
As a Puppy Raiser for Southeastern I have been impressed with the support of the organization to the volunteers and the impact these sevices have on the blind community.
Over the last four years, I have spent countless hours as a volunteer for this organization in several areas -fundraising, office work, events and raising puppies. I greatly admire the mission they are attempting to accomplish. While revenues dropped and the economy is still not recovered, this organization has spent funds on many unnecessary 'trimmings' (expensive decorative fencing, landscaping, uniforms, etc), reduced the number of clients they serve (from 90 to 70 annually), increased the number of employees (from 52 to over 65), reduced contact with volunteers and donors, new taglines/logo colors (new stationery, vehicle signs, advertising, brochures, etc.), a life size statue in a brick paver 'garden', etc. While the publicly accessed areas of the 'Nursery' has seen many improvements, the other kennels are not air conditioned or even screened, so the dogs live in heat and insects. Many well experienced employees (some with 10+ years there) were dismissed (most without severance) to be replaced with college degreed young hires with NO experience in breeding, handling, training, or caring for dogs or experience with blind individuals for that matter. Approx. 250 puppies are bred and born every year - with only 70 becoming guide dogs. A handful of others become 'Gifted Canines'. Although a 5 year plan is in place, the first priority should have been their 'product' - the dogs, and the clients they serve. Instead, they have focused on 'Image' and being 'premier' and 'world-class', none of which are necessary to GIVE healthy, happy, well-trained guide dogs to blind individuals. There is little to no appreciation or even acknowledgement given to the hundreds of volunteers and no formal program is in place to support them all. As an accountant, I have noticed an oddity. While the Financial Statements (on their website) indicate 2008 Management and General Salaries total only $121,000, the IRS Form 990 indicates the Director of Finance earned over $99,000 and the new CEO earned (annualized) $120,000. Together, their salaries alone total over $210,000, so the numbers are skewed. While it makes the percentage of direct program costs look better, it is not accurate. Additionally, according to a local prominent foundation's current salary surveys of over 100 area non-profits, the CEO and Director of Finance are grossly overpaid for this size charity and their length of service. The vast majority of those serving on the board of directors aren't even Florida residents. Unfortunately, I and more than a few volunteers (some new, some long-time) are turning our attention elsewhere until this non-profit stabilizes.
Titus Herman 09/21/2009
Southeastern Guide Dogs is committed to transparency and adheres to the highest ethical and professional standards – and invites any volunteer, donor or member of the public who has any questions or concerns to visit us in person, call, and/or review any aspect of our operation, including our dog care and training, student instruction and financial practices. The review contains a substantial number of misleading claims and material misstatements. The review incorrectly states that Southeastern Guide Dogs “revenues dropped.” Thanks to the generosity of our donors and increased outreach, Southeastern Guide Dogs’ revenues for Fiscal Year 2008-2009 have seen a healthy increase over the previous year and will be publicly reported once our auditing firm completes its independent review of our finances. With careful oversight by our Board of Directors, the organization is thoughtfully applying available resources to increasing both the quality and the breadth of services provided to individuals with visual impairments. The review incorrectly states that the organization “has spent funds on many unnecessary ‘trimmings’ (expensive decorative fencing, landscaping, uniforms, etc.)” and later on added “new taglines/logo colors (new stationery, vehicle signs, advertising, brochures, etc.), a life size statue in a brick paver 'garden', etc.” to the list. We are gratified to report that each one of these projects has been funded either by designated funds or specific grant awards, or through the generosity of advertising vendors who have provided their goods and services to us at no charge. That, of course, means that the dollars our donors so generously provide to us through their monthly or annual gifts are applied directly to mission fulfillment, including breeding, whelping, raising, harness training and placing our wonderful dogs with our students with visual impairments. The statement that our organization “reduced the number of clients they serve from 90 to 70 annually” is extremely misleading. Over the past year, we have made significant improvements to both the quality and scope of our services. They include: â€¢ A 3 to 1 student to trainer ratio, which enables our staff to provide highly personalized instruction and services to all of our new students, a laudable achievement that should be celebrated rather than criticized. â€¢ A new Graduate Services program that provides ongoing, proactive services – including home visits and consultation – to our active graduates. â€¢ During the past fiscal year, we provided guide dogs to 70 new students, provided in-home follow up training services to 155 graduates, and provided 846 graduate phone consultations. The review incorrectly states our dogs “live in heat and insects.” All of our kennels are properly ventilated for optimum temperature control. And the constant rotation of fresh air in our kennels minimizes the risk of airborne bacteria that may be harmful to our dogs. We control insects throughout the facilities and grounds through the use of a pest control company that utilizes “green” products that maximize the health and well being of our staff, volunteers and animals. The review incorrectly states that “many well experienced employees (some with 10+ years there) were dismissed (most without severance) to be replaced with college degreed young hires with NO experience in breeding, handling, training, or caring for dogs or experience with blind individuals for that matter.” We are proud to adhere to the highest professional standards in all of our practices, including our hiring and staff development practices. We consider a variety of factors in all of our hiring decisions, including education and experience – but not age. Our staffing patterns reflect both longevity (for example, our Director of Training has worked for us for more than 21 years) as well as exceptional experience with breeding, handling, training and caring for the dogs (for example, our trainers have 178 years of combined dog-training experience) and extensive experience with serving the blind community. The review correctly states that our organization has increased the number of employees from 52 to over 65 but fails to indicate the additional staff includes a full-time campus veterinarian and several veterinary technicians, kennel assistants, and guide dog trainers and mobility instructors – all essential to the fulfillment of our mission. All of us at Southeastern Guide Dogs are genuinely proud of the care and attention we provide to our students and dogs. The review incorrectly states we have “reduced contact with volunteers and donors” and that “there is little to no appreciation or even acknowledgement given to the hundreds of volunteers and no formal program is in place to support them all.” In fact, we have greatly expanded contact with all stakeholders through regular communications that include both direct communications (e.g., through staff outreach) as well as traditional media (e.g., newsletters and annual reports); electronic media (e.g., our website and blogs for puppy raisers, graduates and breeder hosts); and social media such as Facebook and Twitter. We have several formalized programs to support our volunteers, including a new Volunteer Retention and Recognition program and an expanded Puppy Raising Services Department that provides ongoing support and recognition to our 250 puppy raisers. The statement that “approx. 250 puppies are bred and born every year - with only 70 becoming guide dogs and a handful of others becoming 'Gifted Canines'” is misleading. While our breeding to placement ratio is consistent with North American industry standards, our Gifted Canines program places a significant number of dogs that do not meet the specific criteria required for guide dog work into alternative careers such as therapy and law-enforcement careers. During the last fiscal year, we placed 60 dogs into such important careers. The statement that the numbers reported in our Audited Financial Statements and Form 990 are “skewed” are grossly misleading. We are happy to discuss the numbers reported – and made publicly available – with anyone who has bona fide questions regarding them. The claim that ”according to a local prominent foundation's current salary surveys of over 100 area non-profits, the CEO and Director of Finance are grossly overpaid for this size charity and their length of service” is unsubstantiated by the facts. Executive compensation is reviewed each year by a strong and independent board comprised of community leaders with assistance from an outside, independent compensation expert and in-depth compensation studies. Finally, the statement that “the vast majority of those serving on the board of directors aren't even Florida residents” is both incorrect and also highly misleading. As listed on our public website, nine of our 14 board members – 64% - are Florida residents – but since Southeastern Guide Dogs, as implied by our name, serves individuals throughout a 12-state region, it is certainly necessary and appropriate to have the entire Southeast represented on the board.