In June 2012 we had the opportunity to travel to the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind (GDF) in Smithtown, Long Island, New York. The first thing you notice when approaching the main building is the tribute to guide dogs.
This bronze statue is dedicated to the work of this fine organization that has been supplying guide dogs since 1946 to people who are vision impaired or desire improved mobility. These well trained dogs are provided for free to approved students. The foundation is supported entirely by donations from generous individuals, corporations and charitable foundations. As part of our visit we took a tour of the breeding center. GDF breeds most of the dogs that they train so that they know the linage of the dog and its temperment and probability of success. In the breeding center there were several pups in various stages of delivery.
Right away we wanted to take several of them home with us. We also visited the training center were selected dogs were in different stages of training. Many of the staff of GDF in addition to the trainers, will walk the grounds with a dog or have them at their desk during the work day. In this way the dogs get use to the world they will be serving with the blind person.The dogs trained at GDF are ultimately matched with a vision impaired person who spends several weeks at GDF working with their assigned dog. Housing during this time is provided by GDF. After graduation the person returns home with their dog but the training never stops. The dog must get use to the handler’s enviorment including home conditions, travel paths, work enviornment and general living situations.
In addition to Guide Dogs for the vision impaired GDF also sponsors Americas VetDogs. Through this program returning vets with certain disabilities are paired with a dog who is trained to help the vet through the tougher parts of their recovery.
My wife and I have now raised six guide dogs through GDF. We had raised five others through another guide dog organization. Two of our six dogs are now working with disabled vets and three are guides. One of the dogs came back to us and now lives in our home and mentors our new guide dog in training.
After leaving Smithtown we were able to visit a friend on Long Island who received our first guide dog that we raised for GDF. Neil was quite a dog. We had our concerns about him because he was very active. As it turned out he became an exceptional guide dog who provides his handler with safety and love. This is Neil with my wife. We are very proud of what he has accomplished for his handler.
GDF provides a unique service to people with diabilities and vets who need special help. They have provided these services to qualified individual free of charge as a result of donations made from many independent sources. Your donation to this organization will truely help someone in need. See the GDF web site at www.guidedog.org.
For America’s VetDogs go to www.vetdogs.org.
By the way, our newest guide dog in training will be travelling on our bike trip across country. It will be great training for him/her.