07-14-18 Cassandra O’Leary

Tuesday, June 28, 2016


(Courtesy Guide Dogs for the Blind)

One of the most amazing service organizations I’ve ever encountered is Guide Dogs for the Blind. While doing research for my upcoming romantic suspense novel, BLINDSIGHT, it was my pleasure to visit their Oregon school campus and learn how these amazing animals are raised and trained, and how these magical human-canine partnerships are crafted—partnerships that have the power to change lives in amazing ways.

Did you know that two of Guide Dogs for the Blind’s co-founders were pioneering women who refused to accept the limitations society put on them?
(Courtesy Guide Dogs for the Blind)

Blind since infancy, Hazel Hurst had been partnered with a ‘Seeing Eye’ dog trained at the organization school in Morristown, N.J. She was a tireless advocate for the blind and fundraiser who in 1941 partnered with a former Seeing Eye Trainer, Don Donaldson, and fundraiser/administrator Lois Merrihew to found the Hurst Foundation in Monrovia, California.

Lois Merrihew had always dreamed of training guide dogs for the blind, but when she applied to an East Coast school to become a trainer, she was told women were not physically or emotionally suited for this type of work. Before long, Don Donaldson mentored Lois to become a guide dog trainer. (Kudos to Mr. Donaldson!)

Through tireless lecturing and demonstrations of guide dog activity Hazel Hurst, the Donaldsons and Lois Merrihew promoted the idea of a 'Guide Dog School for the Blind' in Northern California. When the United States entered the war, many people anticipated a growing need for guide dogs for blinded veterans returning home. Lois and Don shared their expertise with officials of the American Women's Voluntary Services (AWVS). With the support of key people, Guide Dogs for the Blind was established.

Although their first students were civilians, by 1943 GDP paired their first blinded veteran with a dog named Blondie. Many more veterans would be introduced to the joy and freedom of a Human-Guide partnership. Lois went on to become the school’s Director of Training.

"Of any of my accomplishments, I am most proud of Senate Bill #2391, passed in 1947, setting standards and licensing for both trainers and schools," she said. "Before then, anyone could 'train' and sell dogs to blind persons, without any guarantee of proper training." Lois was the first woman to become a licensed dog guide trainer.

30-second Video
Courtesy of Guide Dogs for the Blind)

Guide Dogs for the Blind is a tax-exempt charitable organization that receives no government funding. Private donations and thousands of volunteers make this school possible. Volunteers donate time as Breeding Stock Custodians, Guide Dog Puppy Raisers, Campus Volunteers and members of the Speakers Bureau. Their two school campuses are located in San Rafael, California, and in Boring, Oregon.

Please consider donating some of your hard-earned money, or better yet, time! Visit their website (source of the information and photographs in this blog post)at http://welcome.guidedogs.com/ for more information.

Thank you for reading my post. ~ Sarah Raplee


Diana McCollum said...

Wonderful blog post! Enjoyed reading the orgins of the Guide Dogs for the Blind School. Definitely a worthwhile charity.

Judith Ashley said...

Never knew women were not 'suited' to train dogs after all back in those days they were running households and teaching their children all kinds of things but a dog? And I mean No Disrespect to dogs. Thankfully they persevered and made sure safeguards were in place for both of the partnership that exists between humans and canines.

Sarah Raplee said...

I'm glad you enjoyed my post, Diana.

I agree with you wholeheartedly, Judith! i was shocked that in the 1930s in America these prejudices were so strong. Of course, women didn't get the right to vote until 1920, so I guess even blatantly misguided prejudices like the one Lois faced were more common than I'd thought before researching this post.

Shannon said...

Great post! Thank you so much for sharing.

Sarah Raplee said...

Thank you for stopping by, Shannon. I'm glad you enjoyed my post.