Dr. Lori Hoe poses with Boo, a dog in training to be a guide dog, in front of Main Street Veterinary Hospital in Cornelius. (Courtesy of Lori Hoe)
CORNELIUS – As a small-animal veterinarian, Dr. Lori Hoe plays a major role in the health and wellbeing of Lake Norman-area pets.
Hoe, a doctor at Main Street Veterinary Hospital, decided earlier this year she wanted to find a way to help pets assist humans.
Hoe and her husband, David, applied to Southeastern Guide Dogs’ Charlotte location to be puppy raisers for a guide dog. The organization accepted the family’s application and sent BooNoodle, a four-month-old “Goldador,” a mix of Labrador and Golden Retriever.
Boo, as the two call him, was born in March. He joined the family in early June and will stay with the Hoes for about a year as Lori and David take care of him. They also take him to training classes, where he learns basic obedience, direction commands and the inner-workings of home life.
The dog travels with the family and helps him with real-world training until he’s about 15 months old.
“At that time, he’ll be sent to a school for guide dogs,” David said.
The Hoe family already had a dog and a cat, but Lori said there was room for a puppy.
“I had kind of forgotten what it was like to have a puppy,” said Lori, who volunteered at Southeastern Guide Dogs’ Florida location when she was in veterinary school.
“(Raising a guide dog) was definitely something I had in the back of my mind for a while,” she said.
It didn’t take long for Lori and David to realize they made a good decision. People saw Boo in grocery stores, restaurants, hotels and around town. They complimented the Hoes on raising a guide do and voiced their support for the cause, which Lori said was an unexpected perk.
“People would say, ‘There’s no way I could do that. I couldn’t give up the dog when it was time to do it,’” Lori said. “We know he’s got a bigger position in life, and we’re glad we’re able to help him along.”
Ultimately, the Hoes said they want to see BooNoodle graduate from guide-dog school in the next year or two and then find out he’s helped someone regain some independence.
“People don’t always realize how much dogs can help blind people have independence,” Lori said. “If you get a guide dog, you don’t have to rely on people to take you everywhere. You’ve also got a companion.
You’ve got a reliable friend right beside you when you go places and when you’re at home. It can change lives.”
Guide dogs work until they’re 7-10 years old, at which point they retire and usually stay as pets for the person they assist.
The influence they leave on those who train them, like the Hoe family, is just as meaningful, Lori said.
“It’s like having another family member,” Lori said of Boo. “He’s like my little shadow. He follows me everywhere. What we’ve gotten out of (guide-dog training) already is just having a puppy, going out into the community and seeing people smile when he’s around them.
“It’s nice to see that kind of support.”
Boo is at Main Street Veterinary Hospital, 20306 N. Main St., Cornelius, most days except Wednesdays. Call the vet at 704-765-1115 for more information or visit www.guidedogs.org to learn about guide dog training.