The Seeing Eye celebrates 80th year
About 200 graduates of The Seeing Eye, the world’s oldest guide dog school for the blind and visually impaired in the United States and Canada, came together last weekend to celebrate the group’s 80th anniversary.
Every year, nearly 300 students attend The Seeing Eye to learn how to bond with a guide dog. About 8,000 people have been served since the organization’s inception, said Teresa Davenport, director of communications. About 500 puppies are born each year at the school’s Breeding Station in Chester Township, N.J. according to the Newark Star-Ledger
It costs tens of thousands of dollars to match just one person with a dog, yet the school relies solely on donations, Davenport said.
During the three-day reunion, the graduates attended banquets, workshops and toured Morristown.
Morris Frank started The Seeing Eye in 1929, after he was inspired by a 1927 article by well-known dog breeder and philanthropist Dorothy Harrison Eustis about guide dogs assisting blind World War I veterans.
Frustrated by his own lack of mobility as a blind person, he was wrote to Eustis, an American training German shepherd dogs in Switzerland. When she received Morris Frank’s letter, she agreed to help him, according to The Seeing Eye’s website.
“He promised he would return to the United States and spread the word about guide dogs. In 1928, having completed instruction in Switzerland, he arrived in New York City, proving the ability of his dog Buddy before throngs of news reporters. His one-word telegram to Mrs. Eustis told the entire story … ‘Success.’ The Seeing Eye was born, with the dream of making the entire world accessible to people who are blind.”
“It was the beginning of the Great Depression, and here we are, 80 years later, and The Seeing Eye is still going strong,” said Pete Lang, former Seeing Eye instruction and training manager.
“It is the leading guide dog school in the world,” said Marion Gwizdala, president of the Tampa, Fla.-based National Association of Guide Dog Users. He said the school has for years set a standard for dog guide schools. There are about a dozen in the nation, and 72 worldwide accredited by the International Dog Guide Federation.
(Photo: Morris and Buddy)