Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Local Efforts Benefit Leader Dogs for the Blind

Since 1939, Leader Dogs for the Blind has provided guide dogs to those who are blind and visually impaired in 39 countries. In the United States, nearly 300 people per year receive trained dogs through this program.

Members of the Searcy Lions Club support the national Leader Dogs for the Blind program, located in Rochester Hills, Michigan. In addition to providing financial support, a local Lions Club member, Scott Pevehouse, serves as the district chair for these efforts in Arkansas.

“Preferred breeds for training include Golden Retriever, Labrador Retrievers, and German Shepherds,” stated Pevehouse. “Volunteers take puppies into their homes for approximately one year to train them in basic obedience, as well as to socialize them in the community. These dogs must be confident out in public, as their future training includes learning how to assist their owners in navigating busy streets as well as assisting in the daily routine of the owner.”

A twenty-six day residential train program is provided for anyone over the age of 16 who qualifies for a guide dog. Once a new client has learned the basics, he or she can also apply for the Trekker Program, which combines Global Positioning System (GPS) technology with recent advances in hand-held computers and voice technology. Used in conjunction with a guide dog, a Trekker GPS device can pinpoint the user’s exact location and announce streets, intersections, stores, and other points of interest.

According to Lions Club member Bob Simpson, “Currently, the Trekker program is in use in over twenty countries. It takes services to the blind and visually impaired into the twenty first century.”

Anyone interested in more information regarding the Leader Dog Program can contact the Searcy Lions Club at 279-3402.