“Dogs do speak, but only to those who know how to listen.” -Orhan Pamuk
We already know how awesome dogs are at being companion animals and bringing joy to their humans. Some dogs take their superpowers even further by working to help people through all sorts of jobs. September is Service Dog Month and throughout the month, we will explore how dogs can help people in need with multiple tasks and services, from providing balance support for people with mobility issues to alerting a person with hearing loss when a smoke detector goes off.
One of the most recognized kinds of service dogs is guide dogs who are trained to support and assist people with visual impairment to live more independent lives. And one of the best guide dog training programs we know is Guiding Eyes for the Blind, based in Yorktown Heights, NY. We are proud to support the mission of this great organization and the work of all their extra-special assistance pups by making Guiding Eyes for the Blind our 1% partner for the month of September.
Since its founding in 1954, Guiding Eyes for the Blind has trained thousands of dogs, and graduated nearly 10,000 teams of guide dogs and handlers. That’s almost 10,000 people who have gained more freedom and confidence because of their trusted guide dogs. Cost never has to be a concern for a potential handler, as Guiding Eyes for the Blind provides guide dogs and training completely free. Location is not an issue, either. While Guiding Eyes for the Blind has a residential training program headquartered in Yorktown, NY, they also offer in-home training to people who can’t travel to their facility. This makes it so they can help people no matter what their financial means or where they live.
Visually impaired people who love to run can gain the freedom to do so independently through Guiding Eyes for the Blind’s one-of-a-kind Running Guides program that trains dogs and handlers to run safely in real-world situations. Running is great for physical and mental health, and this program offers an opportunity for visually impaired runners to gain all the benefits of running while maintaining their safety and independence.
Beyond the training programs, Guiding Eyes for the Blind has also been breeding their own guide dogs since 1966 at their Canine Development Center in Patterson, NY. Their state-of-the-art breeding program ensures that their guide dogs not only have the best temperaments to do this work, but also that they have the most appropriate early socialization experiences. It is vital to the safety and well-being of both the guide dog and the handler that the right dogs be trained to serve as guide dogs, and the Guiding Eyes for the Blind breeding program humanely and ethically works in concert with their training program to make certain that this happens.
To help socialize puppies to become future guide dogs, after they are about nine weeks old, the puppies go and spend a few days in the home of a volunteer to assess how confident and resilient the puppies are. Puppies who do well with the home visits and who demonstrate the necessary traits to be a good guide dog will then be placed with volunteer puppy raisers. The puppies will stay with these volunteers in their homes for 12 to 18 months to be socialized and receive basic training skills. After this, the puppies return to Guiding Eyes for the Blind for specific guide dog training and placement and training with a handler. At any point, if the puppies seem like they won’t make a good fit as a guide dog, they will be placed for adoption to a loving home or offered to organizations that train assistance dogs in other types of work. In all cases, Guiding Eyes for the Blind makes sure that the dogs end up in happy forever homes.
As dog people, we recognize other dog people. The folks at Guiding Eyes for the Blind are some of the best dog people we’ve ever encountered. And their work helps countless people, too, making them doubly special. We are thrilled to be able to support the work of this important organization through our 1% partner program.