WIMBERLEY (KXAN) — Wimberley High School has three new students this semester, but they walk on four paws, and they’re only nine-weeks-old.
The puppies will one day become diabetic alert dogs, but for now, each student paired with a puppy is tasked with getting them ready.
“Think about a child who’s entering grade 1 or kindergarten going through their foundations of grade 1, grade 2, grade 3, all the way up to grade 12,” said Todd Kier, Instructor at Freedom Canines Instructor. “That’s the same thing that the puppies are getting, a much more condensed version of 16-18 months. They’re learning their skills, their manners, how to do their work in various environments.”
Agricultural science teacher at Wimberley High School Tiffany Black said a grant from the Wimberley Education Foundation helped to set up this new partnership. She said the foundation looks for innovative ways to bring hands-on experiences to classrooms.
“It’s perfect for my classes,” Black said. “Focusing on small animals and veterinary care, which is great with this program.”
Freedom Canines International has 6 puppies in training. So far, the organization has matched 4 pups with a student “puppy raiser.” Three of them are at Wimberley High School.
“The first night it was… It was very overwhelming for both her and my family because she had just been separated from her siblings,” said Zane Shoebroek who’s a sophomore. “She’s in a new place, new smells. She was frightened. It was a little bit nerve-wracking for her.”
Shoebroek will be spending the next 16 to 18 months with a lab named Zing.
“She is sleeping more and more through the night, which is, that’s what we want her to do,” he said.
Shoebroek’s family has three other dogs, but Zing has to be trained differently.
“When I wake up, I feed her, I take her out. Then I do take her to school every day now,” he said. “She can’t sleep with the other dogs because she has to get attached not to other animals, but to me.”
The puppies will be with their puppy raisers 24/7.
Once they learn the basic commands, instructors at Freedom Canines International will take over and teach the dogs how to alert.
Through scent, the pups will be able to detect when someone’s blood sugar is too low or too high before it becomes dangerous.
“I feel honored that I’m going to raise a dog that could either save someone’s life or it’ll just be there in case someone needs it,” said Shoebroek.
“The old adage is it takes a village, well it takes a village to raise a puppy as well, and that’s what we have here,” said Kier.