Helping the Guide Dogs Guide

Published: April 11th 2010
in News » Israel

A guide dog for the blind in training
Pic: YouTube
The construction of the new facility
Pic: YouTube
A blind man describing the experience of having a guide dog
Pic: YouTube

Imagine walking around the house with your eyes closed or blindfolded. You’ll more than likely find that this is no easy task, without a companion assisting you or telling you where to walk so you don’t bump into things or even hurt yourself.


Now imagine the many blind people around the world who live this way each and every day of their lives. Think about that blind person you may encounter on the street. Often they are assisted by a friend, sometimes they walk with that special cane, and sometimes you will see they are accompanied by man’s best friend, the dog – in this case a special dog which has been specially trained to assist the blind.


One might think at first that it is very easy to find a dog and train it to become a guide dog for the blind; but as it turns out, this is a long and sometimes complicated process which can take a few years to accomplish.


As of 2005 there were 25,389 blind people in Israel, according to a report by the Israeli Welfare and Social Services Ministry. There are a variety of causes for blindness in Israel, including blindness from birth, blindness as a result of diseases such as Diabetes, and, unfortunately from injuries as a result of terror attacks or wars. Whatever the cause, for many years, guide dogs for the blind were almost unavailable! That is, until the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind came along.


It all started 19 years ago with Noach Braun, a former paratrooper with the IDF who had trained dogs during his service in the army. When he finished his army service, he realized there was no organization that helped blind Israelis to get a guide dog. At the time there were no guide dogs in Israel and people that wanted the dogs would have to travel to the United States to get one, assuming their English was good enough or that they could afford to do so.


In order to make his dream of such an organization come true, Braun traveled to the United States to train to become a guide dog trainer, a process which takes several years. In the US, Braun met Norman Leventhal who was sold on the idea of forming an organization to help secure guide dogs for the blind, and the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind was born.


Braun and Leventhal encountered some difficulties in bringing the dogs to Israel, since the environment in Israel is so different than in North America, and so the dogs had to adjust, and sometimes had a difficult time doing so. Despite the difficulties, the center was established, its first home being behind Braun’s house in a moshav in Israel. Recently, the center opened a state-of-the-art facility in Bet Oved (near Rehovot, about 20 minutes from Tel Aviv). The new facility was made possible by the donations of many patrons, and in particular through the generosity of the late Canadian philanthropist Bluma Appel, who fell in love with the cause and donated funds toward the construction of the facility.


Related articles: (guide dogs, blind, israel guide dog center for the blind)
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