Paul Richards

Paul Richards, Leader Dog chairman for Lions northern District 2E2, discusses the impact of having a guide dog with the Cleburne Lions Club on Wednesday.



Legally blind, a man reaches for a pair of tennis shoes he leaves in the same spot every day, only to find they’ve somehow been moved.

“Trooper: Shoes. Find. Bring,” Paul Richards commands his guide dog.

Within a short moment, Trooper — a Collie and German shepherd mix — finds Richards’ missing shoes and fetches them for him. With the assistance of his guide dog, Richards will be able to make it to his doctor’s appointment without running late.

Each year, 200 “Leader Dogs” are matched with clients who would otherwise lose their independence. Richards discussed the impact of having a service dog with the Cleburne Lions Club on Wednesday. He is the Leader Dog chairman for Lions northern District 2E2.

While serving in the military, Richards was exposed to Agent Orange. The tactical herbicide used in Vietnam left him 100 percent disabled with a long list of health complications, including impaired vision.

“This is the smartest dog that’s come along since Rin Tin Tin and Lassie,” Richards said. “He knows 170 different things from words in English, Spanish, German, sign language, hand movements, body positions and locations of my cane.”

At Leader Dogs, training is personalized for each client. They have the opportunity to train with their guide dog in a wide variety of situations to fit current and future needs, including urban, suburban and rural locations; college campuses; busy stores and malls; public transit and other environments.

Lions Clubs throughout the world have continued to support Leader Dog and its clients financially, brought thousands of people who needed assistance through Leader Dog’s doors and have continued to serve on the Board of Trustees. They are puppy raisers, volunteers, breeding hosts and more. Many recipients of Leader Dog services have become Lions after experiencing their support and mission firsthand.

“I can’t tell you how important it is for your club to step up and sponsor a dog,” he said. “It will actually change someone’s life.”

The Cleburne Lions Club approved a donation of $1,000 to Leader Dogs at the end of Richards’ presentation.

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A job well done

Cleburne Lions President Woody Mathews on Wednesday also presented Lion Ed Carroll with the Melvin Jones Fellowship Award.

“This was created in 1973 for the founder of Lions Club International,” Mathews said. “The fellowship was established as the highest form of recognition to acknowledge an individuals dedication to humanitarian service.”

Mathews said Carroll personally contributes many hours of selfless time for the betterment of others.

“I’m really not worth of this,” Carroll said. “This is something each and every one of you that’s been in this club as long as I have deserve. I will be proud to have it on the wall at home. It is an honor and I certainly do appreciate it.”

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