We’ve all seen and maybe even wondered about guide dogs and the people that need them. As you probably already know, guide dogs are used by visually disabled persons. Whether they are fully blind or have low vision for travel safety, these dogs help them traverse throughout the day. And what they do really is very special. Aside from being a loving companion, they are truly a wonderful mobility tool.
According to Vision Aware, “The guide dog is a “mobility aid” that can enable people who are blind or have low vision to travel safely. Guide dogs can guide people around obstacles and through crowds, stop at curbs and stairs, and sometimes even be trained to find a limited number of objects that are within sight when given orders such as “Find the chair,” “Find the door,” or “Find the elevator.” The guide dog user can also train (or “pattern”) the dog to find frequently used landmarks, such as a bus stop pole or a mailbox (source).”
How to you can help support people with guide dogs:
It is interesting to note that there is an estimated 1.3 million people in the U.S. that are legally blind. And that each year 75,000 more people in the United States will become blind or visually impaired (source). However, there are only approximately 10,000 guide dog teams currently working in the United States. We’ve also learned another statistic that shows only about 2% of all people who are blind and visually impaired have worked with guide dogs.
The reason that percentage is so low isn’t just because people don’t feel them necessary. It is actually quite costly to match a dog. It is Guide Dogs of America‘s mission to match dogs with their perfect blind partner, which costs on average about $48,000. While that seems like a lot think of all of the costs involved. From vaccinations and spaying to training and micro chipping, not to mention boarding, feeding, grooming and the matching services themselves. It takes a lot to make it possible. That’s why donations are always appreciated. Also, learn more about donating here in Colorado with the Canine Partners of the Rockies.
Lending a hand at a local facility is also a great way to help. Centers often need clerical/office assistance, puppy sitting/playing and help with marketing events. The more hands helping, the more the available resources can be used to the fullest of their ability.
Aside from directly helping, you can help every day by being respectful of guide dogs when you see them. Even though the seem very approachable (and are quite adorable in their vests), they are working. So make sure not to try to give them any special attention, treats or pats on the head.
No small act of kindness is too little to help guide dogs and their partners navigate through life. Do you have experience with guide dogs? We’d love to hear your stories in the comments below or on our Facebook page!