Morris Frank was the name of a blind man who helped begin the first school that trained seeing eye dogs. His dog named Buddy is considered to be the first seeing eye dog in the history of the United States.
This incredible story began in 1927, when Morris Frank was a 20-year-old student at Vanderbilt University and a man not happy about his dependency on the others to get around. The father of Frank read him an article by Dorothy Eustis, a lady living in Switzerland who had seen shepherds training dogs to help people get around.
Excited by the story of the lady and the dogs, Frank took a ship to Europe and trained extensively with a dog that had been bred specifically to lead a blind person. After weeks with the dog, he could get around the nearby village holding tightly to a harness to which Buddy was strapped.
Then, Frank returned to the United States with the aim of spreading the word about seeing eye dogs. He was successful from the moment he got off the ship. At the time, in front of a lot of reporters, Buddy led Frank safely across a busy New York street.
When Frank came back to Nashville, people were in awe at the sight of the blind man and his dog successfully navigating busy sidewalks. Fran wrote years later that strangers spoke to him freely. In the past, he often envied two sighted persons, who obviously did not know each other, their ease in striking up a conversation. With the help of Buddy, however, it was the easiest and the most natural thing in the whole world for them to say “What a lovely dog you have”.
About that period of time, Frank, Eustis, and some other cofounded The Seeing Eye, the name of an institution set up to train guide dogs and their blind owners. This one operated in Nashville for two years and then moved to Morristown, New Jersey.
The dog owned by Frank Morris known as Buddy remained a national hero for the rest of his life. When the dog left the world in May 1938, the event was noted with a long obituary in the New York Times. Today, the thing called the Seeing Eye reports that it has trained more than 14,000 dogs. Buddy was the first one to be trained.
Dogs are so good at social intelligence. They read people really well. Guide gods put the skill to use each moment they are on duty, responding to a lot of gestures and verbal commands a blind person uses when working with a dog, such as directional cues like “forward”, “left”, and “right”.
People expect guide gods to obey these commands and in general, they do. However, sometimes they are required to make an independent assessment of a situation, and to intelligently disobey if complying would put their person in danger. For instance, if there is an open manhole cover in the path, we want them to ignore the forward command.