Lincoln of Troy was invited to a special THANK YOU breakfast for past supporters, and I was asked to attend on our behalf. It was a wonderful experience and I learned so much about this wonderful organization. There were several wonderful keynote speakers including Oakland County executive, L. Brooks Patterson!
The Leader Dogs for the Blind are celebrating their 75th year pairing clients with their Leader dog. They not only train the dogs, but also the people as well in a 26 day on site residential training program for people who are legally deaf, blind or both at no cost to the client! They train clients like this from all over the world, not just locally. Each client is picked up from the airport if needed, driven to the center and given a private room to train and get to know their new dog during their stay. Every need is on site, food, entertainment even a gym for the clients to use while they are there.
About 40% of the dogs who are in the program will eventually go on to be Leader Dogs, the rest are given a “career change”. Most times these are wonderful dogs that make terrific pets but are not well suited to be guide dogs for various reasons. Most career changed dogs are available for adoption by loving people, although some will have the opportunity to become different types of service dogs, such assistance dogs, Paws for a Cause, police, customs or they might be a Border Patrol Dog. A career change can happen at any stage of the guide dog program. Often these dogs are not able to meet our medical requirements or personality assessments. Some dogs just don’t have the desire to work in this way—or are too interested in chasing squirrels!
Leader Dogs will be taken care of their entire life! I was told about a dog that was discovered via a chip which is implanted, in Mississippi at a shelter. The dog was old and in poor health due to a large growth. They had a driver drive down and pick up the dog. They removed the growth and adopted him out to a loving home.
In 2002, they started a program where they place puppies in prisons around the country for the prisoners to train which has been a win, win situation for all. With carefully chosen inmates able to volunteer the huge amount of time needed to train the dogs properly, and the dogs giving the prisoners a sense of accomplishment, responsibility and empathy. AND Prison leader dogs have a 25 percent higher graduation rate than dogs raised in homes!
It costs roughly $40,000 to place each dog, and they rely heavily on donations. This summer, they are completely renovation the kennel as well with help from their many sponsors like Lincoln of Troy.