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Blind Devotion

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Man’s best friend is usually considered a pet – a playful companion. But sometimes they’re put to work as guide dogs for those who can’t see. It takes months of intense training – usually by volunteers – to turn these playful pups into invaluable helpmates. They provide freedom and independence and allow the blind to see the world in a whole new way.

 
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SCRIPT:

Stacey Robinson / Blind: “Hold on; hold on. I’ve got to orient myself.”

Blind since birth, Stacey Robinson will attempt a death-defying act—walking across a street.

Stacey crossing street: “Amigo, forward.”

Stacey Robinson: “At the time I got him, I was terrified of traffic.”

Crossing streets – being independent – is now profoundly easier, thanks to Amigo, her four-legged friend.

Stacey Robinson: “It gave me confidence that I never would have had on my own.”

Stacey high-fives Amigo: “Good dog!”

This empowering moment is made possible by volunteers like Sally McCanner …

Sally McCanner: “Buddy, forward.”

… who spends months training and socializing guide dog pups.

Sally McCanner “These dogs are very specifically bred. And the only reason that they are put on this earth is to become the eyes for somebody else.”

McCanner takes Buddy everywhere – to work, on shopping trips, across busy streets.

Sally McCanner: “It teaches him that he needs to be aware of what I am doing, what the blind person is doing.”

It’s a bittersweet commitment. Like a foster parent, McCanner will hand Buddy over to someone who needs him more.

Sally McCanner: “What do a few tears amount to if you’ve changed a person’s life?”

Stacey Robinson: “I don’t think these people realize what a wonderful thing they’ve done for us. It gives you eyes.”

Stacey in pulpit: “Are we content with what we have?”

Increased mobility has enabled Robinson – a United Methodist lay minister – to accept more offers to preach.

Stacey in pulpit: “Sometimes I’ll do everything, so he’s got to be still and not move around.”

With the right training, these dogs become natural-born leaders.

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There are about a dozen training schools for guide dogs in the United States. The largest is the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind (www.guidedog.org). The dogs are given free of charge, but it can cost $30,000-$50,000 to match each dog with a blind partner. The dogs spend an average of 18 months in training. Only 50 percent of the dogs graduate. The rest are adopted.