(Oct. 12, 2011) -- Maneuvering expertly around obstacles and stopping precision-like before crossing streets, guide dogs for the visually impaired often appear to be led by instinct alone. But, it takes a lot of human effort to produce a top-notch canine companion for the blind.
Just ask Rene Rios, a UTSA graduate student pursuing his master's degree in the College of Education and Human Development's Department of Counseling. Rios is the newly appointed breeding and puppy acquisition specialist for Guide Dogs of Texas (GDTX). Already a seasoned breeder of St. Bernard show dogs and of show rabbits, Rios now focuses his talents in producing guide dogs for the visually impaired.
He received his first Labrador retriever two years ago.
"She came over from the United Kingdom, and it took their breeding center managers three years to analyze and research her lineage to provide a dog that fit our needs for clients we have here in Texas," recalls Rios, describing the painstaking nature of the process."
Fortunately, the Labrador met the organization's high standards, producing a litter of future canine guides. Rios' role in the process covers carefully selecting the brood and stud dog using genetic analyses and other tools, and continues through the first eight weeks of a puppy's life, socializing the animals and familiarizing them with elements each would encounter in a real-world setting.
"I expose them to different stimuli, provide basic care and introduce them to humans who then handle them," he explained. "After eight weeks, they go into puppy training with volunteers," he said.
The methodical nature of Rios' work conveys the importance of the GDTX mission. Since 1998, the nonprofit has served 50 clients throughout Texas and currently has a waiting list of two dozen visually impaired people hoping to secure the unique services of a highly trained, quality guide dog.
Fluent in Spanish, Rios adds linguistic talent in promoting the use of guide dogs in the Hispanic community as well. Culturally -- particularly among the recent immigrant population -- the idea of having a dog roam inside the house is something of an aberration to some Latinos, he noted.
"It's not in our culture to have a guide dog," he said. "I speak for myself, but I couldn't picture my aunt with a guide dog. Not so much for third- or fourth-generation Latinos, but the older members of our community haven't been introduced to guide dogs, and just the idea of a dog living inside the house and taking you places is foreign to them. It's challenging," he said of efforts to convince some about a guide dog's value.
Rios not only enjoys the challenge, but derives fulfillment in every aspect of his work for the visually impaired: "There's profound meaning to it because society is impacted positively. People talk about dream jobs, and that's something I've always pursued. This work fills me with contentment."
GDTX is one of 11 internationally accredited schools of its kind in the nation.
The UTSA community is encouraged to donate blood and save a life. Donors will also receive a free t-shirt.
H-E-B University Center parking lot, Main Campus
Dr. Stephanie Westney (violin) presents a concert of Mozart compositions as performed by herself and other talented musicians from the university and surrounding area. This concert is free and open to the public.
Arts Building, Recital Hall (ARTS 2.03.02), Main Campus
The Student Center for Community Engagement and Inclusion annually hosts a Volunteer Opportunities Fair to allow students, faculty and staff to learn about volunteer and service-learning opportunities in the San Antonio area.
University Center, 1st floor corridor, Main Campus
The University of Texas at San Antonio, the San Antonio Express-News and KLRN-9 will host a town hall meeting to explore policy related to sanctuary cities. The event, Sanctuary Cities: State rules versus Local Control, is free and open to the public.
Buena Vista Street Building Theater (BVB 1.326), Downtown Campus
Join the conversation about the experiences of military-connected families in transition. Free parking in the Cattleman Square (along Buena Vista Street). The event is free and open to the public.
Frio Street Building, Riklin Auditorium (FS 1.406), Downtown Campus
School district superintendents and other district leaders responsible for bilingual and ESL programs' administration and accountability learn about cultural literacy, language, and diversity in the community.
Recruiters from across the STEM fields will be present with full-time, part-time and/or internship opportunities. Dress professional and bring plenty of resumes.
Convocation Center, Main Campus
Recruiters from across all fields looking to hire students with all different majors will be present at this event looking to hire for their full-time and/or internship opportunities. Professional dress is required. Bring plenty of resumes.
Convocation Center, Main Campus
The Civic Engagement Summit is an opportunity to celebrate and showcase UTSA's commitment to civic engagement through a myriad of efforts by students, faculty and staff, highlighting the significant ways the university impacts the local community.
H-E-B University Center Ballroom, (HUC 1.104), Main Campus
The Department of Demography presents Dr. Rodolfo Cruz Peñeiro of El Colegio de la Frontera Norte. His presentation is titled "Changes in the Migratory Dynamics of the Northern Mexican Border." This event is free and open to the public.
Monterrey Building, (MNT 3.240), Downtown Campus
Grab your friends, family, kids and dog for this annual fun run on the UTSA Main Campus benefititng the UTSA Alumni Association.
Convocation Center, Main Campus
The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.
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