Guide dogs perform a special service as the eyes for tens of thousands of people who are visually impaired. They prove that the dog is indeed man’s best friend. But when a guide dog’s working days are over, it needs (and has certainly earned) a loving home to live in. Most are Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, or German Shepherds. If you are interested, here’s how to adopt a retired guide dog.
Learn the difference between young (1-2 years) and older retired guide dogs (7-plus years) and choose which is right for you. Guide dogs must be trained from the time they are very young and some turn out not to be suited for the work, usually because the dog is too excitable or cannot get along with cats or other animals. Occasionally a dog will have a medical problem which is otherwise minor, but it precludes him serving as a guide. If you want a younger dog, these are ideal. Be forewarned, though. Most guide dog organisations have long waiting lists to adopt these animals. Alternatively, you can adopt an older dog who has served for several years as the guide for a blind person. Often these dogs stay with their owner, but when this is impossible they need good homes.
Locate a guide dog organisation where you can adopt. At the end of this article are links to two national organisations, Guide Dogs of America and the Dog Adoption Network. You can also find nearby organisations by contacting your local centre that provides services for the blind and visually impaired.
Adopt a retired guide dog. The procedure varies from one place to another. It’s very much like adopting from an animal shelter except you know the animal’s history and be certain of its training and temperament. Generally, you will need to show that you have a home that can accommodate a retired dog comfortably.
Be prepared for some unusual behaviour. In addition to commands, guide dogs are used to having a structured routine. They make wonderful pets but they won’t be comfortable with frequent changes in schedules.
Expect the dog to disobey you on occasion. A guide tog for he blind is trained to put safety first and to refuse a command if he/she perceives a danger. Your new friend may refuse to cross a street—and even get in front of you and block your way, if he/she thinks its not safe to cross!