ROCHESTER — Around a dozen Engineering Society of Detroit members enjoyed a tour of Rochester’s Leader Dogs for the Blind Thursday afternoon.
Included was a presentation from Sarah Osaer of Leader Dogs client services on the advanced spoken-word GPS technology now included as part of the Leader Dogs service.
The GPS device helps clients with their confidence and mobility, giving them the ability to follow directions to a destination with the assistance of their leader dog.
David Locklin, class coordinator and guide dog mobility instructor, gave a tour of the 30-room residential area where Leader Dog clients spend about a month in training with their dogs. Leader Dog clients must be at least 16 years old, legally blind, with good orientation and mobility skills, and must have the ability to care for a dog on their own.
And Rachelle Kniffen, director of communications and marketing, gave a tour of the Leader Dogs kennel, currently undergoing a $14.5 million renovation and expansion.
Leader Dogs breeds its own guide dog puppies from generations of proven stock. The dogs are raised by volunteers for their first year of life, then come to Leader Dogs’ headquarters on Rochester Road for further training.
Leader Dog matches its clients with a dog that best suits their lifestyle, travel pace, physical size, stamina, and other considerations.
Leader Dog service is free to the blind. The cost — about $32,000 to breed a dog, train it, and match it with a blind person — is covered by foundation, corporate and individual donations. Leader Dogs matches about 200 dogs with visually impaired people a year, in classes of about 25 at a time.
Following are photos of the tour: