SMITHTOWN, New York -- For 75 years, The Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind has provided guide dogs at no cost to those who are visually impaired or blind.
Since 1946, the foundation has trained and placed guide/service dogs to people wanting to achieve increased independence and enhanced mobility.
Once there is a match with an assistance dog, applicants become a part of the foundation's welcoming community, supported with empathetic and certified trainers, to a meticulously constructed curriculum.
"We provide hope for people, we provide independence for people," said John Miller, President, and CEO of the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind. "When you look at the work that we do, the results are almost instantaneous. You can see the difference with the people we work with when they get their dogs, and that's really a hard feeling to replace or find elsewhere."
The guide dogs receive training at the foundation, which is a 2-year process. The dogs are bred and then placed with puppy raisers who help with their socialization and introduce them to different environments.
Once they are ready for the next phase of training they are brought back to the foundation between 14 to 16 months old.
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The trainers then get the dogs ready to go through an intense matching process for the specific skills for the person who needs them.
John Brennan, a blind veteran, is currently training with his third dog from the foundation. His new guide dog, Edgar, was leading him throughout the course the foundation has to offer, simulating street traffic and obstacles.
"Edgar does all the work, and I just follow," said Brennan. "Good boy Edgar, good boy!"
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The duo has been paired for about two weeks, but the trainers were impressed with their progress. Brennan is confident that he and Edgar will be perfect together after a few weeks of getting to know each other.
"When you see somebody paired with someone who needs them, you really understand what you are really doing here," said Miller. "You're providing somebody with independence, so any selfish feelings you have your attachment to the dog tend to go away once you seem them paired in action really make a difference in someone's life."
The foundation plans to continue providing guide and service dogs, free of charge, to people who seek the increased freedom, mobility, and companionship these dogs bring.
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The Guide Dog Foundation celebrates 75 years helping the visually impaired free of charge