Advertisement

West Hagerstown Lions host speaker from Leader Dog Program

June 19, 2008

West Hagerstown Lions Club hosted the annual Leader Dog Rally at Washington Square United Methodist Church on April 22.

The speaker was Bunny Tabatt, from Little Falls, Minn., who brought her golden retriever, Baker. Tabatt said Baker is a "leaner," as he loves to lean and sneak petting when he shouldn't.

Tabatt told her story with humor and sincerity, and expressed her appreciation to the Lions Club and the Leader Dog Program.

In 1970, Tabatt was suffering from the effects of minimal vision. She got her first leader dog, Buff, in 1984. She went to leader dog school in Michigan and spent 28 days training to use Buff.

Advertisement

Then she got Sam, a 3-year-old leader dog, and she knew she was in trouble. Sam had a mind of his own. He went where he wanted to go, and was not about to take instructions from Tabatt. The Leader Dog Program then delivered Bear, who was very loving and caring, and great at following instructions. Bear developed lymphoplasma cancer and had to be retired.

Baker has now been Tabatt's faithful companion for five years. The average working life of a leader dog is 10 years. It takes 12 months to train a dog, and most dogs begin their training when they are 16 weeks old. Retired dogs usually remain with the blind individual as pets when the new dog is put into service. Since the dogs are trained to be very docile, it is usually not a problem to have the two dogs together.

Leader Dog trains blind-deaf teams, graduates 300 teams a year, and is the only school outside of England involved in this program. Leader Dog works with rehab programs throughout the U.S. The White Cane program trains blind or low-vision individuals to use a white cane. The computer training program teaches blind individuals advanced skills in order to enable them to secure a job. The Blue Tooth School teaches the blind to use a GPS device to help navigate more effectively, and is a special aid in unfamiliar areas.

All training expenses and leader dogs are free for the blind. The Leader Dog Program is funded by Lions Clubs.

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|