Book Review: Trust the Dog, Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation, with Gerri Hirshey

When I was in grade school, I read a small book, published by Scholastic Book Service, called “Follow My Leader.”  It was about a kid who was blinded in an accident, and who had to adjust to his blindness.  He ultimately got a Guide Dog, which gave him freedom.

Going to dog training  seminars, I sometimes meet  blind people training dogs.  I am always amazed at their confidence in walking around without tripping (something I, a sighted person, can not do!)

I actually found this book at the dollar store, and bought it to send to a humane group overseas.  I thought I should read it first. I believe it got to the dollar store because it was published as a ‘vanity’.  That is, it was published by the authors, in this case  to give to prospective donors to the Fidelco Foundation.  Check out their web site, and their Charity Navigator rating.

While this  books initially comes off as a puff piece for the founders of Fidelco (who happen to be wealthy business people with an interest in service dogs and breeding good dogs), it is actually very informative  about the dynamics of facing blindness.  It is several chapters, five of which are about individuals, how they became blind, how they coped with it, and how their lives were improved by using a guide dog.

I am sure most people in the USA have heard of seeing eye and guide dogs for the blind.  Most do not know that there are various schools which train service dogs.  They also don’t know how  dogs are chosen, trained, and how  recipients get the dogs.

More and more, I am finding pet owners who want to train  their personal dogs to be service dogs.  There are now groups (non profits) all over the country  which train people and evaluate dogs, and help dog owners find places to volunteer.  In Chicago, we have a group called “Sit Stay Read,” where children just read to dogs.  This requires very little training—but it does require a dog who wants to sit or lay around and be attentive to a child.  You can’t train  all dogs to do this (especially not the toy breeds or terriers).    Lots of people are disappointed because they chose a dog who is not suitable to be a service dog.

This book is short (Just over 200 pages)m well and simply written, and would be a good  gift for anyone interested in working with service dogs.

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