Leader Dogs is one of the largest schools for training service dogs in the nation, founded in 1939. About 300 dogs a year graduate from the remarkable 14 acre campus and they go on to mean independence to their new masters. Four of those graduates got their first year of training in our house. Here are some pix of a few of the five pups my wife and I have raised for Leader Dogs.
From left to right: Sport, our first, is navigating the streets of Mexico City, Layla is working in Southern California, Jasmine is working in Fort Worth, and Wags is working in Northern Virginia. Below is our fifth trainee, Sunshine. All five of our pups graduated and went on to drag blind people around. Not a bad record since only about half of the trainees graduate.
In February 2009, Sunshine and I got to ride in the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile in Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. She is shown here with “Hotdoggers” Molly Fergus and Amanda Maurer. Sunshine is now working in Madrid, Spain.
Here’s the inside of the Wienermobile. That’s Molly at the wheel, her mother at left, and Mary Ann Brauneis on the right, retired owner of a popular Southside hotdog pushcart. There’s a mean sound system in this chariot.
In 2011 Leader Dogs paired us with Reese, the beautiful sweet Golden Retriever, above, with our pet English Pointer, Ivy. From the start she was skittish, shying awar from plastic bags. Although she trained up as well as the others, when we sent her back for grad school, the took her almost to the end and asked us if we wanted to keep her as a pet. She was skittish, and “lacked work ethic.” In other words, she was lazy. A Leader Dog has to get up in the morning ready to go to work, and she preferred sleeping late. Of course we adopted her and she is still with us.In March 2021 after Ivy died, we got back into the Leader Dog program and started training Sandy, a female Yellow Lab. We are blown away by this dog, by far the smartest we have ever worked with and that includes Molly, our pet Border Collie, who won ribbons in agility. That’s her below, at 7 weeks old, the day we were given her by the puppy breeders at Leader Dogs for the Blind.