Seeing Eye Guide Dog School

Today's post it was written by my husband and deals with his thoughts on being a blind handler of a guide dog. Please take a moment to read this and maybe consider donating $5 or $10 to an amazing cause.

The Seeing Eye gets most of their money from Donations. A very small portion of the cost of a dog (About $40,000-$50,000 per dog from breeding to the dog going home with a blind handler) comes from the actual student/blind handler

From their faq:

Each student is asked to pay $150 for his or her first visit to The Seeing Eye and $50 for each subsequent visit. Those who served in the armed forces pay $1. This fee, unchanged since 1934, includes the cost of the dog and its initial equipment; the student's instruction with the dog; room and board during the 18 to 25 days the student spends at the school; round-trip transportation from anywhere in the United States or Canada; and lifetime follow-up services. This payment, which may be made in installments, covers a fraction of the actual cost. To the student, however, it represents dignity and self-respect. No one has ever been denied a Seeing Eye dog for lack of funds.

From the mind of Ken.

I grew up a middle son of two loving parents. I have a younger brother that I have never quite been as smart as, and an older brother that I was never as cool as. I was deep into sports and girls and knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. That was simple. I wanted to follow my father into the Air Force and that is exactly what I did.
I never had much patience and thinking things through were never my strong points. I actually liked to do things on the spur of the moment rather than having to plan things out. So let me just tell you that when I very abruptly lost my sight in the military things came to a grinding stop.
Don’t get me wrong. I was never one of those people who sat and cried and thought I would die. I had a deep faith in God that told me there are bigger better things. Not only that but there was little in this world that I thought could beat me. Maybe it was the way my parents raised me. Maybe it was the fact that I followed my older brother into wrestling just to see if the chubby guy could do as good as the skinny guy. Maybe it was that when they told me I was too small to play football it just ticked me off.
Whatever it was I have it in spades and blindness just didn’t scare me. With that all said. There was one problem. The slow pace of a cane just ticked me off. I have stepped off two-foot drops because I am in too much of a hurry to check. I have ended up in places where I should not be because I am in too much of a hurry to listen. I had trouble crossing streets because of the vehicles on the parallel streets just sound way too close so I would end up veering too much away from the main street as I crossed a side street and believe me there are amazing things that can happen when you do diagonal cane travel when you think you’re going straight. I have ended up flat on my back because the cane didn’t see something chest high. So I knew I had to fix the speed and safety of travel.
The other thing I knew from the first day my Mom walked into the ICU and told me that I was going to be blind the rest of my life, bar any technical advances. I knew I wanted a guide dog. Don’t ask me where I had heard of Guide Dogs. It could have been a high school class. It could have been anywhere. I know that I wrestled a blind guy once in High school but he didn’t have one. From those first months in the hospital though I could not wait to get out and try my luck at a guide dog. Unfortunately, rehab was long because of all the surgeries. Then I of course had to learn cane skills first because to be a good guide dog handler, you really need to know how to travel on your own.
With that, all said things really changed two days after I stepped into Seeing Eye and sat and called my first guide dog to me. His name was Aztec and when I called him he raced across the floor and jumped into my lap on the chair. Now judging by the reactions of the trainers this was neither totally unheard of nor was it something that he was supposed to do.
From that point on it felt like some giant hand reached down and started pulling my derailed life back on track. Sure I was no longer in the military and unless they started some top secret blind Air Academy I probably wouldn’t be going down that path again. That said though Aztec made me feel free again. There is just something about being behind a guide dog that can travel at the same speed as sighted people.
It takes a bit of faith and a lot of trust to follow at the speeds these dogs move at. Not only that but judging by the 2 Guides I have had since him and all the guides I have met. There was something special about Aztec. They tell me he was extra young to be going out at 18 months old and from what they said he was pulled out of the class early because his personality fit me so well and he was ready. That was an understatement.
Aztec understood English probably better than some 3-year-old kids. He could learn a route in one take which was perfect for a guy that was going to college and who had to change classes every quarter. Heck one time I lost my shoe and was going to be late for a bus. I was so angry when he came up and poked me I shouted stop if you want to help go get my shoe. He did. I never yelled at him for bugging me again.
Aztec took me through my first years of college. He even made it possible for me to feel brave enough to go by myself a good 3000 miles on a flight to meet a young lady that I had to that point only known on the internet. He walked down the aisle with me before I married that young lady. He went through the long sessions of paperwork and court while I adopted my 3 children. He was with me through getting my Bachelors. He was with me through 3 moves. He gave me the ability not have to leave hours early to get somewhere and the confidence to know I would get there.
My only wish is that Seeing eye could come up with a way to make guide dogs live as long as we live. Aztec was my first but I went back to get another. Armory which I named Aiden because Armory was just too long for me was a totally different beast. He was smart. He was an amazing guide but he was a brat. He made me watch him like a hawk but when he worked he worked like a champ. He had his things he did better than Aztec but there was never that soul wrenching bond between me and Aiden like there was between Aztec and I. I think I must have been blessed to have Aztec first he taught me a lot about Guide dogs and I use those lessons to this day with my current guide Sirus.
I could write a book on all the events with Aztec, Aiden, and Sirus. My wife, however, is reading over my shoulder and said something about me already writing a book. That was not my intention, though. I mainly just wanted to give you a feel of what these dogs, these amazing dogs, do for us. They don’t just lead us around obstacles, that is just their job. What they do is give us the speed, freedom, and confidence, some of us have lost and some of us never knew we could have. So I want to say thanks to Seeing Eye and thanks to anyone who will put some money down to help them continue to train these amazing friends and companions.
Thanks, Ken


Post a Comment