The Guide Dog Foundation was founded in 1946 to provide dogs for the blind or otherwise sight impaired, free of charge. The original name was “Guiding Eyes.” The purpose of “Guiding Eyes,” later known as The Guide Dog Foundation, was to train service dogs to help visually impaired people have greater freedom to move about on their own safely. The Foundation that began in 1946 to serve the visually impaired community, free of charge, is still serving the visually impaired community free of charge.
Created To Serve
Matching dogs with their human is serious business. Each person is meticulously matched to a dog that suits, not only their personality, but also their lifestyle. The two become one unit of cooperation, trust, and fellowship. Each applicant travels to the Guide Dog Foundation training camp in Smithtown, NY for a twelve day, intensive program to learn to work together as a team no matter what situation they find themselves at any given time.
The training in NY also consists of classes that teach partners how to groom their dog, how to continue practicing obedience to stay sharp, and etiquette training for non-guide dog users. At the end of the program, both dog and human will know how to navigate a wide range of situations in the real world, from out alone at night, navigating stores, to crossing busy streets. The team is ready to go anywhere they desire completely on their own. The freedom this program gives to people who have lost their independence through loss of their sight, or never had it because they were born blind, is liberating.
There are a very few types of dogs that are used as guide dogs by the Foundation. The Foundation breeds their own dogs and uses only Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Lab/Golden cross, and Standard Poodles. The reason being, in order to be a guide dog, each dog must display certain characteristics, such as gentleness, good health, and a selective temperament.
The Americans with Disability Act allows guide dogs to go anywhere the public is allowed to go, which includes restaurants, retail stores, planes, cabs, and hotels. The program is still free of charge, as it was originally created to be. Dogs and training are provided to qualified applicants, including transportation to and from the school in New York, as well as room and board during the training.
The cost from the time of breeding, through to the final matching with a human, that includes raising and training, is $50,000. The intensive training, of which only the best of the class will graduate from and become official guide dogs, teaches the guide dog to maneuver around objects, find and navigate a clear path, and stop before crossing the road. The dogs must obey his partner’s every command without fail unless there is danger ahead; this is the only time they are allowed to disobey.
Opportunities to Help
There are many opportunities to be involved in this worthwhile work. There are dozens of opportunities to serve. You can sponsor a puppy, or an event. You can make a financial contribution, or work with your company or organization to make a donation. You can even raise a guide dog puppy.
If you are interested in a way to help, go to the website at http://www.guidedog.org/ to learn more about this wonderful program that gives the blind back a measure of their freedom despite their physical limitations.