Braille Monitor                                              April 2014

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New Service Animals for the Blind

BartonSome of you may have heard about the hawk that was loose in the atrium of the Jernigan Institute back in October. We at the Monitor just received permission to tell our readers all about it.

Meet Barton, a member of a new experimental guide animal program. We love our guide dogs, but in today's urban society, there can be some drawbacks: allergies in the family to dog dander, the difficulties finding an apartment you can afford with the space for a large dog, not to mention finding a park or similar place to exercise your canine companion.

GeorgeWith this in mind, trainers have been working with several new animals, looking for an alternative more suited to modern city living. Barton only requires a bit of room to stretch his wings from time to time and can ride on his owner's wrist or shoulder in crowds. He can often scavenge for his own food, so the owner has one less thing to pack on long trips.

Also in this program are George, a capuchin monkey, and Rocky, a raccoon. Both species are smaller, easier to exercise, and are highly intelligent. Capuchins live thirty to forty years, and raccoons in captivity can live up to twenty, meaning that they would have a much longer working lifespan, coming closer to the goal of giving a blind person a guide for life. As an added bonus, a monkey or raccoon would be trainable in such tasks as handing you your cell phone, house keys, or other small items.

RockyFor more information about the program, or to volunteer to work with one of these new potential guide animals, contact Ms. April Phules by phone at (410) 111-1111, ext. 2473 (BIRD) or email her at <[email protected]>.

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