Braille Monitor                                                         July 2007

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Things Are Looking Better Thanks to Sight Dog, Elroy

by Bob Shryock

From the Editor: The following dismal article first appeared in the Tuesday, May 15, 2007, edition of the Gloucester County Times in New Jersey. It is a painful reminder to us all of how much education we still have to do. The job is particularly difficult when the reporter is inclined to be sloppy with facts like the location of the training facility and inaccurate with terminology: has anyone else ever referred to guide dogs as “sight dogs”? Whether we use canes or dogs, it is incumbent upon us all to do everything we can to insist courteously that people use correct terms and try to understand the partnership between user and animal. Here is the article:

Bob Colter's fading eyesight is a deep concern. A diabetic who has glaucoma, Colter, sixty-three, has been legally blind for five years and faces the possibility of one day losing his sight altogether.

But since passing an intensive thirty-day course at Guide Dog School for the Blind in San Rafael near San Diego [actually much nearer to San Francisco], California, the Turnersville resident's spirits are soaring. His new best friend, Elroy, a two-year-old yellow Labrador sight dog he brought home from the West Coast, is making sure of that.

"The dog has turned my whole life around," Colter says. "Without a doubt I'm 100 percent better."

Colter, who has lived in Gloucester County for fifteen years, was the only New Jersey resident to complete the course among the twenty graduates. There are East Coast schools which also match students with sight dogs, but, Colter says, "they're not as complete as this one--it's one of the best in the United States."

Colter passed a mobility test prior to attending the California school. He said he was selected "through hard work." Featuring routine fifteen-hour work days, the school prepares the student and his dog for everyday challenges. The two already are pals who make frequent trips to Philadelphia on public bus transportation to test their compatibility. "If there's something I can't see, he'll stop," Colter says. "Not every Lab can make a guide dog. But Elroy is very cool, very gentle, very easy to handle, and he sees what I don't. It's working out fine. I trust him."

Prior to losing his sight, Colter worked in construction with his father, Luther. He is married (Joanne) and has two daughters (Michelle and Sharita).

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