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IMG_5545Becky Floyd and Kathie B. Curtis are the co-founders of Gallant Hearts Guide Dog Center in Madison, Mississippi. Becky has worked a guide dog since 1964, has always loved dogs and, as a child, obedience trained dogs, rode horses, and enjoyed a wide range of pets, including a Spider Monkey, an opossum, birds, ducks, chickens, and more. After graduating from college and law school at the University of Mississippi, Becky began her career as an advocate for other people who were visually impaired or had other disabilities. At the age of 60, she married (for the first time), her childhood sweetheart. It is not surprising that after 36 years, she retired but was not ready to sit down and do nothing.

Kathie grew up in Starkville, Mississippi and has always been owned by dogs. Her first memory of a dog was a small Chihuahua named Poncho, who was always by her side. He was followed by Beagles, Cocker Spaniels, a German Shepherd, Redbone Coonhound, Border Collies and, her favorite breed, the Rottweiler. She worked several years as an obedience trainer, knowing that a well trained dog was more likely to be treated as a family member and less likely to wind up in an animal shelter. The last 18 years, she served as the Director of Youth Ministry for the Catholic Diocese of Jackson Mississippi. Kathie retired in August, 2015 to work, full time, with Becky and Gallant Hearts

Thus, Gallant Hearts Guide Dog Center was born. In 2009, Becky and Kathie pooled their own resources to get the organization up and running. A few small grants in those early years helped to insure the organization’s continued existence. Gallant Hearts placed its first dog in December, 2012 and has, to date, placed 15 dogs with people who are blind. Of these teams, 13 are in the United States, from California to New York to Mississippi, with 2 teams in Canada.

What nonprofit doesn’t need funding to grow and expand services? Gallant Hearts is no different. With only 1 trainer, Gallant Hearts is limited to how many dogs are placed each year until they are able to employ an apprentice trainer. They will continue to provide for all reasonable expenses associated with puppy raising from food to veterinary care.

Since both Becky and Kathie work without compensation, Gallant Hearts dogs can be raised, trained, and placed for around $20,000 each, whereas other schools quote a cost of over twice that amount. The last fiscal year accounting showed a remarkable 85 cents of every dollar going into actual program costs with only 15 cents for administration.

Getting those calls and emails from graduates telling us how wonderful their dogs are is what keeps Becky and Kathie working long hours each day. If puppy raisers cannot be found, Becky and Kathie raise the pups, they deliver pups from the Center’s breeding program, obedience train pups, and socialize them. Becky and Kathie clean kennels, keep puppies clean, feed dogs and puppies, and perform all tasks that go along with raising dogs and running a kennel.

The big project at this time is to raise money to build a whelping kennel so that pups will be separated from the general canine population. Just one more big step for a small school wanting to make a difference.