Lions Dream and Lions Make Dreams Come True
By Lion Karen Burns
More than 73 years ago, three Lions from Detroit, Mich. had a dream that they could build a school to train dogs for people who are blind or visually impaired. Lions from all over the world helped this dream come true. Over 14,500 people have left Leader Dog, walking proudly, safely and independently with a Leader Dog harness in their left hand full of Lion love in the form of a guide dog. These dogs are highly trained and very expensive. However, there is no cost to the clients of Leader Dog. Once the recepient requests a Leader Dog, there is a long process of securing just that right dog for the individual. At times, the leader dog does have to be returned and recepients try another dog. The most popular dog breed for this duty is either the labrador or the golden retriever. However, other smaller breeds are selected as they are very active and need a large house or yard to exercise.
During these years clients have also had a dream, a dream of mobility and of regaining self-confidence. Leader Dog has had clients who have become lawyers, physical therapists, organists, engineers, counselors and public speakers, the list goes on and on. Lions have always had dreams — it could be the dream of one Lion, or one club, or a district to assist in improving the quality of life for people who are blind or visually impaired. When Helen Keller challenged the Lions to become Knights of the Blind, this was her dream.
Lions made a promise to make her dream come true. Leader Dog has been the driving force to see that this dream is made a reality through programs to provide highly trained guide dogs, a nationally recognized mobility program, programs in audible GPS technology and a summer leadership camp for teenagers who are blind. All of this happens because Lions dream and because Lions make dreams come true.
One of the most rewarding “jobs” you can have is training a Leader Dog. Puppy raisers are in great need.. You can apply online through www.lionsclubs.org and search for Leader Dog. The process takes from 6-12 months to just be accepted into the program. The puppy raiser is responsible for picking up the puppy, feeding/caring and all vet costs related to the raising the future service do. The committment is for three years once you receive your puppy. You can request a certain breed if you are more comfortable with one over another.
Leader Dogs have been provided to the blind by your local Chugiak Lions, Eagle River Lions and Sleeping Lady Mountain Lions. We thank all Lions for joining in the dream, for working and contributing, and for being Knights of the Blind. I remind you, “The only happiness you get to keep is the happiness you give away.”
If you would like more information on how you can help please visit www.lionsclubs.org. To learn more about being a Lion, please visit our websites at www.sleepingladylions.org, www.lionsclub.org, www.chugiaklions.com, find us on Facebook or give me a call at 242-1129.