WIMBERLEY, Texas - They're the newest members of Wimberley High School working to get their education. A few Labrador puppies are learning the ropes at WHS through a partnership with Freedom Canines International, offering a unique learning experience to the students.
- Puppies being trained to be diabetic alert dogs
- Learning the ropes at Wimberley High School
- Puppies will later receive specialized training
"What we're training them to be is diabetic alert dogs," said puppy raiser Cassidy Heineman. She is in charge of raising Zest, a yellow Labrador.
Freedom Canines founder Todd Kier and his wife Becky are teaching the students how to train the puppies. The organization partners assistance dogs with those in need.
"So there's the win for our dogs getting out and being socialized and building awareness within the community about assistance dogs or in this case diabetic alert dogs in training," Kier said.
Puppy raisers Cassidy Heineman, Zane Shoebroek, and Skylar Hammond are with the puppies all day and all night. They'll be together about a year and a half learning the basics, then move on to specialized training.
"And that's about another six to eight months of intensive training, teaching them how to alert to that person who's levels, sugar levels in the blood are going low and they might need that help get the insulin, get some food getting sugary drinks into them to help them out," Kier said.
"They go on from manners to how to save lives. I think she'll be up to the task," Shoebroek said, talking about his trainee, Zing, a yellow Labrador. "I wanted to [train] mainly just because I knew it would help someone's life, just make it just a little bit easier."
And the handlers themselves are tasked with the 24/7 job of caring for the canines even outside of the classroom. It's a task they don't seem to mind.
"Knowing that I could help a dog become a better dog and to help people is just it was a big opportunity that I wanted to have," said Hammond, who is training Zam, a black Labrador.
It's not all work and no play -- remember they are still puppies.
"She's like, I know I'm a puppy, and I want to play, and bite things, because I'm a lab," Heineman said.
The next step is to move from the classroom to the main campus, where the pups will learn how to cope in the hectic halls of a high school. Then they'll move to advanced training with Freedom Canines, and will eventually be placed with those in need.