Seeing Dogs

Dorothy (Harrison) Eustis was born to a wealthy family who was there at the creation of the United States. She was educated at elite schools. She was married at age 20 and had two children. Her husband died nine years into their marriage. Two years later, she remarried.

Dorothy and her new husband relocated to the Swiss Alps. They began to breed German Shepherds and train them to be police dogs. They also found a use for their dogs in assisting German soldiers who were blinded by mustard gas in World War I.

The Saturday Evening Post featured a story on Dorothy and her work. Soon letters began pouring in. One letter, in particular, stood out. A young man who was blind begged Dorothy for a dog. He wanted to set up a training center in the U.S. to expand the number of dogs that could be used to enrich the lives of the blind.

Dorothy had divorced her husband and decided to create the Seeing Dog School for guide dogs. Both the dog and the blind recipient of the guide dog needed to be trained. At first, Dorothy and other trainers had to travel from place to place to do the training. Eventually, she paid for a live-in facility to train dogs and recipients.

Dorothy devoted much of her fortune to The Seeing Dog. She passed away at the age of 60. While Dorothy is known for her work with training dogs for the blind, she set in motion the use of dogs for others in distress. Today, dogs are used to aid persons with a variety of disabilities. They are also used to support people who struggle with mental health issues.

Beginnings are often a confluence of a skill and a need. Dorothy had a skill in training dogs, and it was a blind person who had a need who spurred the idea of using dogs to enrich the lives of those who couldn’t see. There is a debate about whether a beginning starts with an idea or a need. In this case, it was both.

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“You can always find hope in the eyes of a dog.” – Anonymous

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