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Training Seeing Eye Dogs
By Kody Fisher
Without a guide dog some blind people would have to use a long white cane, which can still have dangers, but with a guide dog some blind people said they feel a whole lot safer.
When the fire alarm at Joseph Palmeri's work went off his guide dog Harley knew exactly what to do.
“It was a lot of people in front of me and he kept lookin to the left to get me past these people, he couldn’t wait to get me out the door and once we got out the door he ran from the door fast as he can to get me away from the building, so it drastically helps me out a lot," said Joseph.
Joseph's dog is trained by freedom guide dogs here in Utica.
Walking up and down Genesse street they use special commands to get around the obstacles
"Gaston, forward, good boy, leave it, hup up, that’s it," said trainer Rivi Israel.
What makes them unique and in high demand is that they take the dogs to the people in need, not the other way around.
“Training a blind person where they live, in the Utica area, or throughout the whole state of New York makes a lot of sense to blind people they get to train where they go to work," said co-founder Eric Loori.
Freedom guide dogs said the most challenging part isn’t training dogs to work with blind people, it's actually the dog interacting with people in public.
“So, the general public certainly can interfere with the dogs work by reaching out and petting the dog and what that can do is distract the dog from keeping its owner safe," said Israel.
That’s exactly what they do, keep their owners safe.
Joseph said he doesn’t know what he would do without Harley.
“The best part is we've bonded so much, I mean, even when I have him home and he has his harness off and he's done, he just wants to look around to make sure I’m ok,” said Joseph,” once he sees I’m ok he just goes on, then he moves on and lays somewhere else or just lays right next to me."
Freedom guide dogs said it take about two years after the dogs are born before they're placed with an owner. The nonprofit organizations demand is so high they have a year and a half long waiting list for one of their dogs.