Pets & Animals

Wrangler has many career options: Guide, companion or even detective

Congratulations, Wrangler! Today is your day. You’re off to great places! You’re off and away!

Those words paraphrased from "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" by Dr. Seuss will apply to TODAY’s Puppy with a Purpose by next year. But just where might Wrangler go once he’s completed his training at Studio 1A and beyond?

Samantha Okazaki / TODAY
What might Wrangler want to do when he grows up?

“The primary goal is for Wrangler to become a guide dog, but there are many other options for him as well,” said Michelle Brier, director of marketing and communications for Guiding Eyes for the Blind, the nonprofit agency overseeing the pup's training.

If Wrangler does not become a guide dog, he could end up helping a child with autism or a deaf person. Or (depending on his sniffing skills) he might follow his nose into a career in law enforcement. Here’s a sneak peek at the different career fields Wrangler could pursue when he grows up.

Guide dog. It's a tough gig to get: Brier said guide-dog training represents the highest echelon of service-dog training. That’s because a guide dog is wholly responsible for a blind person’s safety.

“A guide dog can literally determine whether someone crosses the street and makes it to the other side alive,” Brier explained. “These dogs simply cannot become distracted at pivotal moments.”

Guiding Eyes for the Blind
Guide dogs at work helping blind people: Guiding Eyes grads Kate Katulak and Hosta and Nooria Nodrat and Tana.

If Wrangler makes the cut and completes the comprehensive training to become a guide dog, he would start his new career in September 2016.

Autism service dog. Some dogs trained by Guiding Eyes for the Blind go on to provide safety and companionship for children with autism spectrum disorder. In the presence of calm, dependable dogs, many kids with autism can become more verbal and outgoing. The dogs also can help children learn valuable lessons about responsibility and empathy.

Guiding Eyes for the Blind
Wrangler might help a child with autism spectrum disorder. Here, an autism service dog named Shade makes outings easier for a boy named Danny and his mom, Tricia.

Daddy duty. As Guiding Eyes for the Blind trains hundreds of dogs, the organization remains on high alert for the top 3 percent of pups with the most superior health and temperament. Brier said those dogs join the organization’s breeding colony and become responsible for future generations of guide dogs.

Life is good for these stud dogs. Wrangler’s dad, Garth (pictured below), has a loving home in Westchester, New York, but occasionally returns to Guiding Eyes’ Canine Development Center for “dates.”

Guiding Eyes for the Blind
Wrangler’s dad, Garth, stood out because of his ideal health and temperament.

Sniffing out trouble. Wrangler might take to police work. Some dogs trained through Guiding Eyes go on to work for state police agencies and other law-enforcement agencies.

Highly trained, such dogs keep thousands safe by using their powerful noses to detect such substances as narcotics, explosives and accelerants used in arson. (In 2014 and 2015, Guiding Eyes-trained dogs employed by Massachusetts State Police lined the route of the Boston Marathon.)

Massachusetts State Police
Wrangler becomes an arson dog like the one pictured here, he’ll learn how to detect accelerants used in arson with his powerful nose.

Going underground. Yet another option for Wrangler is a career with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, commonly known as ATF. Dogs tapped to work for the bureau are skilled at detecting explosives, explosive residue and post-blast evidence. They’re also trained to find firearms and ammunition buried underground and hidden in vehicles and containers.

Massachusetts State Police
A Labrador retriever alerts to a scent while working for Massachusetts State Police.

Guarding Ground Zero. Wrangler could serve at the 9/11 Memorial. Some Guiding Eyes dogs go to work for MSA Security, a private company that employs explosion-detection canines around the world. Each MSA bomb dog spends his or her career assigned to a single handler. Many dogs work at high-profile events and venues such as the Super Bowl and the 9/11 Memorial.

MSA Security
Like Pilar, the dog pictured here, Wrangler could do explosive-detection work for MSA Security.

A hearing ear. Yet another career ambition for Wrangler could be to serve as a hearing dog for a child or adult who is deaf or has hearing loss. Guiding Eyes partners with the National Education for Assistance Dog Services (NEADS), also known as Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans, which provides such hearing dogs. NEADS also provides dogs for people with physical disabilities and autism spectrum disorder.

Pet project. What if Wrangler considers all of these career tracks but then chooses “None of the above”? That’s OK — he’ll have a great life being adored as someone’s pet.

“Dogs released from Guiding Eyes as pets often find their own versions of alternative careers,” Brier said. “Many owners certify their released dogs as therapy dogs.”

Guiding Eyes for the Blind
Max, pictured here, got released from Guiding Eyes for the Blind’s training program and went on to become a cherished pet and therapy dog.

Yes, our Puppy with a Purpose could someday provide emotional comfort and support as a therapy dog at schools, children’s hospitals and nursing homes.

Need a Coffey break? Connect with TODAY.com writer Laura T. Coffey on Facebook, follow her on Twitter at @ltcoff and onGoogle+, or read more of her stories at LauraTCoffey.com.

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