A unique breed of eye care professional offers life-changing independence
Last month, our blog series was dedicated to helping you gain familiarity with the “O”s of eye care, because it really does matter who you see! This week, we’ll take a look at a dedicated professional whose name does not begin with an “O”–the guide dog, or seeing eye dog.
As we celebrate our nation’s independence, it is timely to consider these amazing service dogs who provide incredible freedom and autonomy to the visually impaired. But, like any great leader, guide dogs are not born, they are made. Guide dogs undergo rigorous training in a campus-like setting for nearly two years. That’s half the time it takes to earn an undergraduate degree! Even with generous volunteers, the cost for each dog to become service-ready is around $40,000. Most providers offer these professionally-trained animals to the visually impaired at no charge.
You may have seen the announcement this past week about the death of Dick Van Patten, best known as the star of popular 1970s drama, “Eight is Enough.” Did you know Van Patten is the inspiration behind National Guide Dog Month (slated for September, annually)? After a visit to a guide dog training campus in Palm Springs, California, a very impressed Van Patten became instrumental in raising both awareness and funds for the training of guide dogs. To read more about Van Patten’s link with seeing eye dogs–and his “pet food empire”–click here.
Tom Sullivan–actor, author, producer, vocalist, and special correspondent for “Good Morning America”–is another celebrity advocate for guide dogs. Blind from birth, Sullivan experiences firsthand the freedom guide dogs offer. He has written three books on life with his black lab, Nelson, one poignantly entitled, When your best friend is your second chance.
“The Seeing Eye,” a philanthropic endeavor based on New Jersey, has a sweet video on the training and upbringing of guide dogs. Click here to watch. The footage of guide dog puppies is guaranteed to melt your heart!
If someone you love is visually impaired and interested in guide dog services, or if you’d like to learn more about volunteering and fundraising, click here.