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National Guide Dog Month – BDI’s Cynthia Coleman Shares Her Guide Dog Story

September is National Guide Dog Month! In celebration of this month, we’re honored to have Call Center employee Cynthia Coleman share her guide dog experience. Read more below. 

I recently returned from training at Leader Dogs for the Blind Campus in Rochester, Michigan with my second Leader Dog, Dutchess, a 19-month-old Golden/ lab mix. My first leader dog Hook, was a black Labrador Retriever, I retired two years ago to my son and his family. Hook was my Guide Dog for seven years, and trust me, even though my son’s family lives in the same city, the separation from Hook for me was very difficult. Retiring a leader dog at 7 years old allows them to have a successful life outside of harnesses and commands. 

Due to the pandemic, the process of getting a new guide dog took much longer than normal. This lapse without a leader dog was the most difficult time for me because I had the knowledge and experience of knowing just what a guide dog could do to enhance my life. But as I patiently waited, my guide dog was on her journey to me! 

These dogs go through so much before they graduate and become leader dogs. At seven to eight weeks, they are separated from their mothers and taken to human puppy raisers. To prepare puppies for their lives as guide dogs, the puppy raisers socialize them through exposure to different kinds of people, vehicles and dogs. After basic training, future leader dog puppies go to the Leader Dog Campus for up to a year for their formal guide dog training. 

Unlike Hook, my previous leader dog whose puppy raisers were in a family home environment, Dutchess had a different experience. Her initial puppy raiser was in a prison, through the Leader Dogs For The Blind Puppy Prison Program. She resided at the prison for her first year and was then brought to the Leader Dog Campus for her formal Guide Dog training. Dutchess is extremely intelligent and is excited to join the BDI family! 

These dogs go everywhere you go, creating an inseparable bond. The independence, safe travel and mobility that these precious creatures bring is nothing short of a God-given blessing!
Written By: Cynthia Coleman

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