One of my Facebook friends is also a guide dog user, though from a different guide dog school. I'm not even sure which one, but, according to her status this morning, I know it's not the Seeing Eye. In her status, she was ecstatic about how the paperwork for her dog has finally come through and her dog now is officially hers. I don't know all the specifics of this school's process, but she's now had her dog for two years.
As you can imagine, she's excited and that shows through. I'm excited for her, too. So, I looked through her comments and saw that another one of her friends left a derogatory message about the difference in guide dog schools. Some people get all up in arms about their school; reflecting back to the days of gang wars over turf and colors. Me? I'm very much of the mindset: do whatever works best for you.
Having said that, I thought the summation of this friend's comment was a little slanted. So, now I respond and give some info:
One reason I love The Seeing Eye is because, as soon as I get on the plane to come home, my dog is officially mine. Many schools have a partial ownership between the school and the dog handler. Then, if anything goes wrong during that partial ownership time, the school can replace the dog with another, retire the dog, provide additional training, etc. Where the Seeing Eye differs is that if there's any question of retirement or replacement, that choice is up to me, the handler. I mean that choice is solely up to me. The Seeing Eye always stands at the ready to offer guidance, assistance, advice, additional training and eval, but the final choice is up to me.
I personally consider this a huge sign of respect to Seeing Eye graduates. However, as the friend of a friend's comment stated, he/she considers this being thrown to the wolves. In the 15 plus years of handling a Seeing Eye dog, I have never once felt like I didn't have all the power of the Seeing Eye in support of me and my choices. They are simply a phone call away. If I need, a trainer will jump on a plane to come to my home and work with me. If I need advice on a troubling situation, they're there at the end of the 800 number. The friend of a friend's comment made it sound as though The Eye says, "See ya in 10 years" and never follows up with the handler. Not true, not true.
To have that support and those resources gives me some peace of mind like I can't describe. Never, ever do I feel alone in working with my dog. Garrett is officially mine, but that ownership is tied closely with as much or as little support as I choose. And what I choose will, of course, be up to me and me alone. This kind of respect for individuality is what will keep me coming back to the Seeing Eye as long as I'm able.