(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.
Celebrate homecoming as the Roadrunners take on Rice. Come early for the Spirit Walk, tailgating, games, music and food. Stick around for a halftime show with SOSA and the crowning of Mr. and Ms. UTSA.
Alamodome, 100 Montana St., Downtown San Antonio
The Leadership Storytelling Homecoming Brunch brings together UTSA alumni and students to share a delicious meal as well as a roundtable conversation about how experiences in college carry us forward on unique leadership journeys.
University Center, Denman Room (UC 2.01.28), Main Campus
The conference is dedicated to sharing recent knowledge and experiences gained in the area of Big Data by researchers in academia, industry and the government sectors within the areas of business, national security, infrastructure, healthcare and visualization.
H-E-B University Center Ballroom (HUC 1.104), Main Campus
Former National Security Advisor Susan Rice, via webcast, will examine America’s economic, political and security relations with China during CHINA Town Hall, an 80-city live discussion and Q&A on China and Sino-American relations.
Building Building, Richard Liu Auditorium (BB 2.01.02), Main Campus
The African American Studies program proudly presents William "Cruz" Shaw, San Antonio City Councilman and UTSA Alumnus. Event is free and open to the public.
University Center, Retama Auditorium (UC 2.02.02), Main Campus
The graduate fair is an opportunity for the UTSA student body and local San Antonio community to learn about graduate education opportunities. The event is free and open to the public.
H-E-B University Center Ballroom (1.104), Main Campus
President Taylor Eighmy is inviting all UTSA students to "Pizza With The Prez." Come grab a slice of pizza and take the opportunity to introduce yourself to the President. Pizza while supplies last.
Frio Street Building, Food Court Commons Area, Downtown Campus
President Taylor Eighmy is inviting all UTSA faculty and staff to "Tacos With Taylor." Take the opportunity to introduce yourself to the President at any one of these casual meet and greets.
Biotechnology, Science and Engineering Building atrium, Main Campus
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