Dogs Do Amazing things. Through wonderful organizations, dedicated workers, and help from thousands of volunteers, countless dogs have been raised and trained to impact, empower, and change the lives of the visually impaired, blind, and deaf-blind individuals forever.
In honor of National Guide Dog day, BOLO and I wanted to share a little bit about the humble beginnings of Leader Dogs for the Blind. Now celebrating their 75th anniversary, they have grown in amazing ways to impact thousands of lives all over the world.
“IT ALL STARTED WITH “$400 AND A HATFUL OF IDEAS.” – DONALD P. SCHUUR.
On April 4, 1939, Lions Leader Dog Foundation (the name change to Leader Dogs for the Blind was to come in 1952) was incorporated as a Michigan nonprofit by Charles A. Nutting, Donald P. Schuur and S.A. Dodge, members of the Uptown Lions Club of Detroit. Their motivation to form the organization came from their unsuccessful attempt to pay for a fellow Lion, Dr. Glenn “Doc” Wheeler, to get a guide dog from the only U.S. guide dog organization existing at the time.
In May 1939, the Foundation leased a small farm in Rochester Hills, Michigan on the corner of Rochester and Avon roads to house their new venture. Fifty dollars per month rented a farmhouse for the clients and staff, a barn for the dogs and a garage. The house rented in 1939 would have over 12,000 clients in residence until its demolition in 2003. Dogs were kept in the unheated barn with straw for insulation (unfit by today’s standards).
On October 8, 1939, the first class of the newly incorporated nonprofit graduated. The cost to graduate each client/dog team was $600. Since then, the campus has grown from a small farm with a house, barn and garage to 14 acres containing an administration building, residence building for clients and a kennel facility housing hundreds of dogs in training, a veterinary office, and puppy and breeding areas. To date, the organization has graduated over 14,500 client/dog teams. The cost to put a Leader Dog through the program now costs $40K!