Seeing Eye Dogs

It takes guts to apply for a job posing nude. But imagine the confidence it takes to apply for that job when you can’t see.

Just ask Beth Finke, who lost her sight from diabetes in her 20s, and then her job.

“At first I tried walking with the cane, but was afraid of falling and never went out alone,” Beth says. “Getting my first Seeing Eye dog renewed my sense of dignity. I stood up straight and had the confidence to go out alone because I had Pandora with me.”

Since her stint modeling for an art class, Beth has had a successful career as a journalist, NPR commentator and author of “Long Time, No See ” and a children’s book, “Hanni and Beth: Safe & Sound.”

Thanks to Carole Segal of Winnetka, who co-founded Crate & Barrel and Foodstuffs with her husband, Gordon, the guide dog school The Seeing Eye shared life-changing stories like this one with a generous audience in the Chicago area on June 13.

The proud parent of Basha (a retired black Lab breeding dog from The Seeing Eye), Carole is eager to raise awareness of and support for The Seeing Eye in the Chicago area, where many of its students live and work. Illinois is among the top 10 states where Seeing Eye graduates settle.

Colleen Wunderlich, blind from birth, got her first dog at age 23 and found the courage to take on a challenging career in sales and a hectic, vibrant city life.

After a slow deterioration in his sight, Brad Shorser regained the confidence to deal with people on an equal level both professionally and socially. “The dog humanizes blindness,” he explains. “People accept you as an individual, not as a blind person.”

Paul Scher, an Equal Opportunity officer at Sears for over 20 years who hired Brad and got himself a dog 7 years ago, says those with guide dogs actually get better paying jobs. In fact, while 7 of 10 blind individuals are unemployed, 7 of 10 Seeing Eye graduates are working—a huge difference.

Such stories of renewed confidence and vigor for life are standard fare for students of The Seeing Eye. Founded in 1929, The Seeing Eye is the oldest dog guide school in the world, having paired more than 14,000 specially bred and trained dogs to almost 8,000 men and women.

Twelve times each year, The Seeing Eye brings students from all over the U.S. and Canada to spend up to a month training with their new Seeing Eye dog at its 69-acre campus outside Morristown, New Jersey. Diligent thought goes into matching the handler and dog, taking into account such factors as the dog’s temperament, strength and pace, and whether the handler’s home environment is rural or urban.

Hearing these stories, it’s easy to appreciate how The Seeing Eye empowers its graduates to live life to the fullest. For more information about ways you can support The Seeing Eye, visit seeingeye.org.