Guide Dogs Give Veterans Freedom

Guide dogs are able to act as the eyes for their human companions, becoming an inseparable team.

Those who serve in the military often do so to fight for freedom. Ironically, through the tragedies of war, far too many experience injuries that can take away their personal freedom by affecting their sight. The Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind is dedicated to helping these individuals live without boundaries – restoring the freedoms of mobility and independence for veterans and others who are visually impaired.

Dog owners know that their pets can bring unconditional love and friendship. The exceptional dogs trained by the Guide Dog Foundation offer much more to their owners: greater confidence, fewer mishaps, and the ability to tackle challenging environments. These assistance dogs help those who are blind, visually impaired, or experiencing other disabilities to maneuver through their world on their own terms.

There are 15 active graduates paired with a guide or service dog in Connecticut. Photo courtesy of The Guide Dog Foundation.

It is a need that is, unfortunately, growing steadily. An estimated 16 percent of injured veterans returned from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan with serious eye injuries. Likewise, traumatic brain injuries have led to impaired vision and mobility challenges for many. Furthermore, as our population ages, an increasing number of individuals are experiencing vision problems that require help with daily activities.

Guide dogs are able to act as the eyes for their human companions, becoming an inseparable team. Through comprehensive training, these special animals learn to follow commands to help their companions navigate their environment. The dogs even learn intelligent disobedience, an amazing skill that enables them to disregard commands when those commands might put the team in jeopardy.

The training involved is extensive and thorough. As such, breeding and training dogs, as well as providing ongoing aftercare services, costs an estimated $50,000 per dog. The Guide Dog Foundation covers these costs in full, eliminating the financial obstacles for those in need.

The Guide Dog Foundation does not receive government funding. Instead, it relies on the support of caring donors and funders throughout the country. In Connecticut, approximately 5,500 donors support the Guide Dog Foundation; among them is Mildred Kelly, who provides support through a designated fund at The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven. The Mildred A. Kelly Fund Fund was established in 1966 by bequest in memory of Mildred's father, Fergus Kelly, and supports several nonprofit organizations that were important to Mildred during her lifetime.

To learn more or to make a charitable donation, please visit The Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind's profile on®.

Did You Know?

According to the 2012 National Health Interview Survey Report, 20.6 million Americans have experienced vision loss.

Source: "Facts and Figures on Adults with Vision Loss"; American Foundation for the Blind,