On this Day:
On April 25, 1928 Buddy, a German Shepherd, became the first guide dog for a US citizen, Morris Frank.
Guide Dog Pioneering Women
The international guide dog movement owes a great deal to several pioneering women.
Humans have had relationships with wolves and dogs for hundreds of thousands of years and there are several historical anecdotes of dogs assisting the blind dating back to 79 AD. However, it wasn’t until the late 1920’s that the guide dog movement was established.
American women Dorothy Harrison Eustis, who was already training dogs for the military, police and customs services, was fascinated by the work done by the first-ever guide dog school in Oldenburg, Germany. After spending several months training there, she trained her first guide dog Buddy, which she partnered with a blind American man, Morris Frank.
Following this, Dorothy set up a guide dog school in Switzerland in 1928 and another in New Jersey in 1929. The schools were called The Seeing Eye.
A few years later, two British women, Muriel Crooke and Rosamund Bond, heard about The Seeing Eye and contacted Dorothy. She trained the British women and, in 1931, the first four British guide dogs completed their training. Three years later the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association was founded in the UK by Muriel and Rosamund.
With this momentum, guide dog schools began to open all around the world and thousands of lives have subsequently been changed, thanks to the pioneering work of these women.
Morris Frank (March 23, 1908 – November 22, 1980) was a co-founder of The Seeing Eye, the first guide-dog school in the United States. He traveled the United States and Canada to promote the use of guide dogs for people who are blind or visually impaired, as well as the right of people with guide dogs to access restaurants, hotels, transportation, and other places that are open to the general public.
Frank was born in Nashville, Tennessee, as the third and youngest son of wealthy Jewish parents, John Frank and Jessie Hirsch Frank. Throughout his childhood, Frank had been the guide and helper for his mother, who was blind.
At age six, he went blind in his right eye after hitting an overhanging tree branch while horseback riding. Attage sixteen, he went blind in the other eye while boxing with a friend. (In a bizarre coincidence, his mother’s blindness was also caused by two unrelated accidents: she went blind in one eye when delivering her first son, and in the other fifteen years later when she was thrown from a horse.)
Before Frank reached his teens, he went to summer camp at Camp Winnebago in Fayette, Maine, where he later returned for a visit, and brought Buddy with him.
Frank graduated from Montgomery Bell Academy, then attended Vanderbilt University while working as an insurance salesman. By the time he enrolled at Vanderbilt University, he had become increasingly frustrated by the lack of independence caused by his disability.He hired young men to serve as guides, but found them to be unreliable.
On November 5, 1927, The Saturday Evening Post published an article by Dorothy Harrison Eustis, an American dog trainer living in Switzerland. The article, titled “The Seeing Eye”, was Eustis’s first-hand account about a school in Germany where blinded World War I veterans were being trained to work with guide dogs.
Frank was one of many people who wrote to her asking where he could get such a dog. Frank not only asked for information about the school in Germany, but also about trainers in the U.S., and said he “would like to forward this work in this country”.
On February 9, 1928, Eustis called Frank and asked him if he would come to her dog-training school in Switzerland, called Fortunate Fields, to be paired with a guide dog. Frank replied, “Mrs. Eustis, to get my independence back, I’d go to hell.”
At Fortunate Fields, Frank was partnered with a female German Shepherd named Kiss – whom he promptly renamed Buddy. He was trained in how to work with Buddy by Elliot “Jack” Humphrey, a self-taught animal trainer and dog breeder who worked for Eustis, at Fortunate Fields and on the streets of nearby Vevey. Frank and Buddy returned to New York City on June 11, 1928, and immediately began telling reporters about how he could now travel independently with his guide dog. Frank demonstrated Buddy’s abilities to the media by crossing West Street, a particularly dangerous waterfront street, and later on Broadway during the evening rush. His one-word telegram to Eustis summed up his experience: “Success”.
Frank worked with Buddy until her death on May 23, 1938. He named her replacement Buddy, as he would all his subsequent guide dogs.
The Seeing Eye
Frank and Eustis then set about creating a guide-dog training school in the United States, and on January 29, 1929, The Seeing Eye was incorporated in Nashville, becoming the first guide-dog school in the United States. Eustis served as the first president and Frank was the first managing director. Two years later, the school moved to Whippany, New Jersey, and in 1965 to its current location in Morristown, New Jersey.
Between 1928 and 1956, Frank, as The Seeing Eye’s vice president, traveled throughout the United States and Canada, spreading the word about The Seeing Eye and the need for equal access laws for people with guide dogs. He met with U.S. President Herbert Hoover in 1930 and with U.S. President Harry Truman in 1949. Between 1954 and 1956 alone, Frank met with 300 ophthalmologists and met with Seeing Eye graduates in all 48 states and throughout Canada.
Frank constantly championed for the right to be accompanied by his guide dog. In 1928, Frank was routinely told that Buddy could not ride in the passenger compartment with him. By 1935, all railroads in the United States had adopted policies specifically allowing guide dogs to remain with their owners on trains. By 1939, The Seeing Eye informed the American Hotel Association that the number of hotels that banned guide dogs from the premises was small and “growing smaller constantly”. By 1956, every state in the country had passed laws guaranteeing blind people with guide dogs access to public spaces.
Many of the principles and ideas Mr. Frank lobbied for are now law, thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act. Buddy met Presidents Hoover and Coolidge, and when she died in 1938, the New York Times ran an obituary honouring her impact on American compassion and civility.
Frank retired from The Seeing Eye in 1956, at age 48, to found his own insurance agency in Morristown.
He died on November 22, 1980, at his home in the Brookside section of Mendham Township, New Jersey.
Honours and Awards
On April 29, 2005, a sculpture titled The Way to Independence was unveiled on Morristown Green in Morristown. The sculpture of Frank and Buddy, created by John Seward Johnson II, is made of bronze and painted in full colour. It captures the pair in mid-stride, with Frank motioning his hand ahead as if he is giving Buddy the “forward” command.
A plaque near the original headquarters of The Seeing Eye in Nashville was dedicated in 2008; it reads, “Independence and Dignity Since 1929. The Seeing Eye, the world-famous dog guide training school, was incorporated in Nashville January 29, 1929, with headquarters in the Fourth and First National Bank Building at 315 Union Street. Morris Frank, a 20-year-old blind man from Nashville, and his guide dog Buddy, played a key role in the school’s founding and subsequent success. It was Frank who persuaded Dorothy Harrison Eustis to establish a school in the United States.”
In 2010, Frank was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame: Leaders and Legends of the Blindness Field.
bcandalbertaguidedogs.com/pioneering-women-established-guide-dog-movement/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morris_Frank https://positivecanineguidance.wordpress.com/2011/02/16/buddy-the-first-seeing-eye-dog/ https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/morris-frank-and-buddy-statue. https://www.seeingeye.org/about-us/history.html
First, a Story:
A man named Mr. Smith was flying from San Francisco to LA. Unexpectedly the plane stopped in Sacramento along the way. The flight attendant explained that there would be a delay, and if the passengers wanted to get off the aircraft, the plane would re-board in 30 minutes.
Everybody got off the plane except one gentleman who was blind. Mr. Smith had noticed him as he walked by and could tell the blind man had flown before because his Seeing Eye dog lay quietly underneath the seats in front of him throughout the entire flight.
Mr. Smith could also tell he had flown this very flight before because the pilot approached him, and calling him by name, said Keith, we re in Sacramento for almost an hour. Would you like to get off and stretch your legs?” Keith replied, “No thanks, but maybe the dog would like to stretch his legs”. Now, picture this: All the people in the gate area came to a complete quiet standstill when they looked up and saw the pilot walk off the plane with the Seeing Eye dog! The pilot was even wearing sunglasses. People scattered. They not only tried to change planes, but they were trying to change airlines!
https://aviationhumor.net › the-seeing-eye-dog
Second, a Song:
The Seeing Eye, Inc. was co-founded by Morris Frank in 1929. Morris proved the capabilities of Seeing Eye dogs with his first guide, Buddy, a German shepherd. Since that time, The Seeing Eye paved the way for access rights and has created more than 15,500 human/canine partnerships. In this rare video from The Seeing Eye archives, you’ll hear from Morris Frank himself!
Thought for the Day:
In 1964 the Monitor (Texas) reported:
The Seeing Eye had contributed to the “freedom and independence” of some 3,000 blind people. “They have come from every state in the Union,” the report reflected, “from Canada, Puerto Rico and, on occasion, from several foreign countries. They have come from all stations in life, to be able to walk with heads high, and to seek their own fulfillment.”
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Dave & Colleen
© 2022 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky