The Seeing Eye is a phenomenon based here in Morristown, New Jersey! Since 1929, The Seeing Eye has matched blind people with exceptional dogs who give them the ability to break down barriers and achieve independence and confidence. Last week, my husband and I and some friends took a Seeing Eye tour of their Maple Avenue facilities with Jim and Ginger Kutsch. Jim is President and CEO of The Seeing Eye, and Ginger is a volunteer there. They are both blind and have Seeing Eye guide dogs–and they met at Seeing Eye! If you walk around Morristown, you’ve probably seen Jim and Ginger and their dogs, Colby and Pixie, as well as other students who are learning to bond with and love the highly-trained dogs who will guide them safely to work, home and life.
Jim pointed out various crosswalks in town that have different sounds for letting blind people know when it is safe to cross the street. We walked around various parts of town where students are trained with their dogs, and ended at the statue of Morris Frank, founder of the organization—and his Seeing Eye dog, Buddy—across from Century 21. (people have been known to leave a rolled-up newspaper in Buddy’s mouth.) The statue is near where Morris Frank had an office in Morristown in the 30s. By the way, when you see students in town learning the ropes with their new dogs, it’s best not to pet the dogs or distract them (unless the instructor motions you to do so); let them do their job! The dogs are “working,” and the process of learning the skill of safely guiding a human through Morristown streets–and the process of being a blind human and learning to completely trust your dog to lead you–is not easy!
The Seeing Eye is having their Gran Fondo Weekend, Sept. 8 and 9, 2012, with the first Run 4 The Seeing Eye on Saturday, and the second annual Gran Fondo Bike Ride on Sunday. Both of these events are fundraisers for The Seeing Eye with donations going directly to support their mission of breeding, raising and training dogs to guide blind people. They’re looking to raise enough money to feed the puppies and dogs in their programs for a year—about $150,000. Jim and Ginger will be riding in the bike-a-thon on tandem bikes with other bikers!
Right now, there are 24 new students who began their program on July 4–a new Independence Day for them–at the facilities on Washington Valley Road, and their fee is nowhere near the actual cost (about $65,000 per student) of the training and care of the student and the dogs. Blinded veterans are actually charged only $1, the same as they’ve been charged since after World War I!
The Seeing Eye is a unique, incredible treasure for Morristown! For YouTube videos of what their training is like, go to www.YouTube.com/seeing4me. (I’m a sucker for the “Seeing Eye Puppies at Play,” and the German Shepherd puppies—and there’s actual footage of Morris Frank, The Seeing Eye founder, and the “Seeing Eye Children’s Video” is a good description of what the dog training is like.) The Seeing Eye is always looking for volunteers to help feed the dogs, drive The Seeing Eye speakers to presentations for the organization, provide clerical assistance, raise puppies who will become seeing eyes to someone; check out their website www.seeingeye.org. (The Gran Fondo agenda is also on the website.) The Seeing Eye is an exceptional, historic partner in our local community, and a lifesaver to so many; take a tour, volunteer, join the Gran Fondo, sponsor or raise a puppy!