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Guide Dogs Give Owners a New 'Leash' on Life

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RALEIGH — Some dogs learn new tricks to entertain their owners while others are taught skills that can mean so much more. Guide dogs are responsible for their owners' lives and their training can start at an early age.

Donna Permar relies on her 8-year-old dog, Neptune, to be her guiding eyes. Every day, he takes her around obstacles at Duke University Medical Center where she works as a medical secretary.

"I work in an office setting, and my dog must be able to lie under the desk and be absolutely quiet during the day," Permar says.

Neptune did not become such a well-behaved dog without intensive training. That training begins when dogs are puppies, like 14-month-old Eagle.

Eagle has been living with Laura Bozeman since he was 8 weeks old. She raises puppies forGuiding Eyes for the Blind.

"He sort of loves life, so he's a happy dog," Bozeman says. "We want him to sit and stay and be able to lie down and stay. Just to be able to be under control when he's out."

The idea is to teach Eagle good behavior before he has time to pick up any bad habits. When he is 18 months old, he will go to the formal Guiding Eyes training school in New York. If Eagle passes the program, he will be matched with someone who is visually impaired.

"To me, that's the biggest goal. That's really what I want for him -- even though we'll miss him," Bozeman says.

Guide dog owners like Permar are grateful for the special dog programs.

"None of us would have our dogs without the puppy raisers," Permar says.

The puppy raising program is holding a benefit golf tournament next month. Anyone who would like more information about the program can call552-3959.