September is National Guide Dog Month. These amazing pups help blind people live their lives to the fullest. They go through rigorous training from an early age. It takes a smart and dedicated canine to develop the skills for the job. We at 2 Paws Up Inc. think these special animals deserve to be celebrated. Come with us as we explore the history of guide dogs.
Dogs have been domesticated for around 150,000 years. Excavations of Pompeii from the year 79 reveal a man being guided by a dog. In the year 1200, a Chinese scroll shows an image of a guide dog helping a person. It is now in the Metropolitan Museum in New York. In 1780 ‘Les Quinze-Vingts’ hospital for the blind in Paris made the first systematic attempt to train guide dogs for the blind. Then Johann Wilhelm Klein, founder of the Institute for the Education of the Blind (Blinden-Erziehungs-Institut) in Vienna, wrote about guide dogs in his book published in 1819. It seems that dogs have been helping their people with special needs since historical records began.
The modern history of guide dogs began with World War One. Numerous soldiers returned home from war without their sight. Dr. Gerhard Stalling, a German, was struck by a moment of inspiration. He was forced to leave the side of a blind patient to tend to an emergency, so he left his dog as company. When he returned, Stalling realized that the dog naturally became protective and cared for the man. In 1916 he opened the first school for guide dogs in Oldenburg, Germany. The school was a huge success and more branches quickly opened. They eventually trained around 600 dogs a year and helped blind people throughout the world. Later another school opened in Potsdam.
Coming to America
Dorothy Harrison Eustis was training dogs for other tasks in Switzerland when she heard about guide dogs. She went to Potsdam and trained with their school. In 1927 she published an article on her experience. A blind American man named Morris Frank read the article and contacted Eustis. Together they went to Switzerland and chose a dog for him. The duo is attributed with bringing the first guide dog to America. Eustis later established the Seeing Eye School in Morristown, New Jersey.
We at 2 Paws Up Inc. hope you have enjoyed this history lesson. Don’t worry, there won’t be a test later. Remember service dogs are at work and should be left alone. Please continue to follow our blog for more information about how special our animals are.