Guide Dogs

Hi Mark,

My husband and I love your show and especially love the discussion about dogs. We
both have guide dogs and have had the unfortunate yet somehow uplifting experience
of helping them into the next life at the end of their work.
I am also a member of the Board of Directors of the Guide dog Foundation for the
Blind in Smithtown, New York.


One of our associated organizations is America’s Vet dogs.

Our instructors not only train guide dogs for blind people but also work with dogs
who are not suited for guide work but still have immense talent, to serve as assistance
dogs and therapy dogs for returning veterans.

Today our first two active serving military dogs were graduated with their handlers
at the National Training Facility in Smithtown. These two dogs, black Labrador Retrievers,
are trained as therapy dogs who will serve in a hospital unit in Iraq, providing
direct help to soldiers coming from the front lines and other dangerous areas with
combat stress. It is hoped that by using the dogs in their therapeutic roles, social
workers, doctors and other field staff can bring people from a very high stress level
back to a point where they can go back into the field and by treating conditions
like PTSD as close to the time of onset as possible, maybe these conditions and their
crippling after-effects can be minimized.

I know from personal experience what a difference a well trained dog and equal training
for the handler can make in someone’s life. From the person who is newly blinded
by disease or accident and takes his or her first walk alone in the shopping mall
or ride on a public bus, to the person who has lost an arm or leg in the global war
on terror learning to work with a dog who can pick up dropped keys, wallets, or help
him balance when going up steps, to the person returning home from the war and facing
post traumatic stress disorder and feelings of disconnection from the world taking
the leash of a trained dog who can help in many ways, but most of all help him to
feel “normal” again, to someone like me who has had dogs as guides for over 20 years
and still gets choked up when my dog navigates Penn Station flawlessly or gets me
through an airport efficiently and gracefully, dogs just never cease to amaze me.
Many of us who work with guide dogs say that it’s the hardest relationship to describe.
It’s part marriage, part partnership, like a cop or soldier, part parent and child.
In the latter, sometimes it’s hard to tell who is the parent and who is the child,
but in the end, our lives depend on our dogs and their work. Now the lives of soldiers
on the front lines depend on our dogs as well.

The Guide Dog Foundation was founded to serve World War II vets in the New York City
area. the training was formed by a sighted instructor and blind people over the years
who told him and other instructors how they needed dogs to work for them. We are
considered a small guide dog school, graduating around 100 teams per year, but we
feel our dogs are the best and most talented animals out there. Over and above all
of it though, they are our friends. They see us at our best and worst moments and
share our fears and triumphs. My dogs have seen me through some horrible parts of
my life and some of the best parts of it as well. I met my husband and his dog through
the Guide Dog Foundation.

It’s a wonderful organization. I’m sure you receive hundreds of notes like this telling
you about groups that do good work with dogs, cats and other animals. There are many
out there. Guide Dog Foundation, known on the internet as GDF, is the only one of
its kind though, in its service not only to blind people but to our veterans and

Please do visit our web site and feel free to contact me or Bill Krull our Public
Relations Officer for more information about the Vet Dogs program.
Keep up the great work.

Jenine from Oh