Saturday, February 21

Seeing Eye project seeks those with love to spare

Greetings. I received the following story in my email awhile ago, but have finally gotten around to posting it. This gives a good portrayal of the blind and guide dogs at the same time; imagine. Anyway, enjoy, and please excuse the formatting errors.


Seeing Eye project seeks those with love to spare

The volunteer job sounds warm and fuzzy enough: be a pup's foster owner for
a while.

Tracy Carcione of Teaneck and her Seeing Eye dog, Ben, making their way
home. They've been

inseparable for two years.

But for Seeing Eye of Morristown and its clients, it's serious work they
depend on: raising

dogs that help North Jersey's visually impaired maintain expanded lives.

Seeing Eye is looking for people willing to take in puppies for 15 to 19
months. Afterward,

the dogs - German shepherds, golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers - are
returned for training. In the relationship, human and dog share a formal

program and, of course, the intangibles.

"We enjoy it tremendously," said Roger Woodhour of Woodcliff Lake, who,
along with wife

Sheila, is fostering Edison, a German shepherd. "When you see the benefits
the dogs give to a blind person and how it allows them to go anywhere they

with dignity, it really is a great feeling."

The puppy placement program began in 1942 and now has 800 dogs placed with
foster families,

including 16 families in Passaic County and 25 in Bergen County.

The pups begin foster care at seven weeks, and for 14 months, caregivers
must housebreak the

dog, socialize it, and keep up with veterinary checkups. They also must
attend monthly group meetings, held in each county, for support and puppy


The non-profit Seeing Eye organization covers veterinary costs and provides
a quarterly

stipend of about $70 for food, grooming and toys.

Doreen Smith of Wayne, a co-leader for the Passaic County puppy group, said
members also

take field trips to socialize the pups.

"You have to be committed to following through with working with the dog,
going to meetings

and at the same time, having fun with the dog," said Smith, who has fostered
eight dogs over 16 years.

Established in 1929, The Seeing Eye of Morristown is the oldest existing
guide-dog school in

the world; currently, there are about 15 others like it. Its 90-acre campus
encompasses a dorm for clients in training, administrative building,

veterinary clinic and four kennels. Seeing Eye breeds its own dogs at a
complex in Chester; to ensure a wholesome environment, all employees there

surgical scrubs.

Puppy graduation

Once a dog is old enough to start four-month training, a coordinator takes
it away. For many

foster parents, letting go is tough.

"It's usually sad for families to see the dog go, but they know they are
helping someone in

return," said Peggy Gibbon, Seeing Eye's puppy placement manager.

Dogs dropped from training for medical reasons can be adopted.

Foster families are invited to watch their former charges at graduation,
which includes

showing their stuff on Morristown's busy streets.

"Families are often stunned by what their little puppy can do, and we get a
lot of tears,"

said Gibbon.

Meanwhile, visually impaired clients undergo similar training in Morristown,
learning to

interpret sounds and traffic without a dog.

After initial training, a student is introduced to a dog fit to his or her
size, agility and

speed. The pair works for up to a month, using basic control commands of
"sit," "down," "rest," and "come," and guide commands such as "right,"

"forward" and "back."

The program fee, unchanged since 1934, is $150 and $50 for each subsequent
visit. That

covers the dog, equipment, instruction, room and board, as well as
transportation and follow-up services. The program runs year-round.
First-time students stay

for 26 days. Others returning for a replacement dog go through a refresher
course of 19 days.

Ray Kornman, an outreach specialist for Seeing Eye, has been through the
program twice.

Kornman who lost his sight to retinitis pigmentosa, was recently paired with
Morris, a golden retriever.

"The dog has allowed me to move a lot freer, a lot faster, and with a lot
more confidence,"

said Kornman. "It's just humanizing me to the general public that don't know
about blindness and vision loss and I was one of those people, too, before I

lost my sight. It's a great conversation starter and an ice breaker in a
social situation."

James A Kutsch, president of Seeing Eye, lost his vision at age 16 to an
at-home chemistry

accident and has relied on dogs through "all the major milestones"
of a full family life. But although such services for the visually impaired
have advanced

over time, he suggests the public strive to provide another:
"Rethink their attitude."

He said that even pondering blindness by closing your eyes to get a feel for
it, "You don't

experience what somebody, who is trained and used to various ways of
adapting their life to dealing with blindness, faces over a long term."

On the streets

Tracy Carcione of Teaneck and Ben headed for work one recent day.
Approaching a bus stop.

Ben took the first steps across a street, and Tracy confidently followed. It
was another normal day of hustle and bustle for everyone, including

who is blind, and Ben, a Labrador retriever getting her to her job as a
programmer for New York Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan.

After a ride to the Port Authority bus terminal, Ben led Tracy downstairs
through the crowds

and out into the loud city. They walked 10 blocks east, winding through
pedestrians and skirting traffic.

"Ben is a great city dog," said Carcione, 47. "The harder things get, the
better he does."

They've been together for two years. Carcione has used Seeing Eye dogs since
college and

said of her last choice, "They had to pick a dog for me who could deal with
Manhattan and be happy."

Besides traveling into the city each workday, Carcione also goes out and
about with Ben,

heading to the gym or a diner for coffee.

"The most important thing for people to keep in mind is that blind people
are like everybody

else," she said. "We have jobs, we have families. We are not sitting at home
in the dark feeling sorry for ourselves."

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous8:29 AM

    Great article!! Your insight on dogs is great!!
    Keep up the good work.

    Mark Siebel