Bonnie Kelly, of Victor, recently spoke about Guiding Eyes for the Blind at a Victor-Farmington Rotary Club meeting.
Kelly stopped by the meeting with Hydrus, a 4-month-old German shepherd she is raising before his formal training as a service dog.
GEB goes about “enriching the lives of blind and visually impaired men and women by providing them with the freedom to travel safely, thereby assuring greater independence, dignity and new horizons of opportunity.”
Kelly explained how the animals are selected and trained before they enter service as guide dogs. Hydrus is the 14th dog she has trained since becoming affiliated with GEB in 2005. Once a puppy is old enough to start training, usually at 8 weeks old, they are assigned to “raisers” for 14-16 months. Kelly will help Hydrus acclimate to society and develop good house manners.
After the dog progresses through this training phase, they move on to formal training at the GEB facility in Yorktown Heights. Here, the dogs are matched with a blind partner.
There is no cost for the blind person receiving a dog. Kelly said GEB only trains dogs that weigh less than 70 pounds. The dogs are not trained to protect the owner, only to guide. It costs approximately $45,000 to acquire and train a qualified guide dog.