Guide dog in training

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Debbie Spratt, the Director of Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapy at Sentara Martha Jefferson, has been raising and training six-month-old Nexus for Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

The pair is working hard so Nexus will be ready to be that perfect companion for whoever needs him.

Spratt has dreamed of training a dog for Guiding Eyes for the Blind since high school.

When she had the opportunity and support from her family, the hospital and her coworkers to train a puppy, she couldn't refuse.

She met Nexus when he was 10 weeks old, and she will be training him until he is ready to go to New York where he will be assessed on what he has learned.

"Teaching him basic commands that the visually impaired person will also be taught. So, what I teach him and what they are taught are exactly the same, like the signal for down, the signal for sit, the signal for walking beside them," Spratt said.

Since Spratt is able to bring Nexus to the hospital with her every day, he is getting exposed to many different people, sounds and smells.

"We got to watch a helicopter land, and he's heard sirens, and yesterday there was a huge truck outside, and we went and walked around the truck,” Spratt said. “So, I think the thing I'm giving to him right now is the experience of all the different things he might run into when he's with his person."

Nexus brightens up the hospital with smiles from patients and staff as he passes through the halls, and he greets everyone kindly with a tail wag.

"It's an incredible gift that I feel like I've been given to give someone else,” Spratt said. "People say, 'is it going to be hard to give him up?' Absolutely, but the end result is worth it."

Nexus has learned a lot so far, but he still has months of training to complete before he can be someone's eyes all on his own. For more information on Guiding Eyes for the Blind, check the Related Links box.

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