Retired guide dogs find homes

Retirement is a sad time for both visually-impaired owners and their dogs. Most retired guide dogs are placed with a new family and they live happily ever after.

Kieanna had to retire her dog, Ellen, in May of 2005 at the age of seven.

"We were in a minor traffic accident. We both walked away from it, but she became afraid to cross streets, so I had to let her go," said Kieanna.

Luckily, Kieanna's college professor Sharon Mcnely adopted Ellen.

"She put on maybe ten pounds, but the difference is that she's not got the muscles anymore when she had Kieanna," said McNely.

"There were some other people who wanted her, but since we didn't expect her to retire so soon, they weren't ready to have her. So off to Sharon she went," said Kieanna.

"I think the transition was a little hard on Ellen at first. She was a little confused about, you know, what was going on and the move and then adjusting to a new household and not having to work. She kept thinking she had to work, but once she got settled in, she was OK," said Sharon.

Kieanna's new guide dog, Jerry, and Ellen get along, which makes it easier for everyone to get together.

Greg Polman has been using a guide dog for 10 years. He now has his second dog.

"This is Jackson. He will be four in March. He started his job at 20 months, and he's an excellent worker," said Polman.

His first dog, Blaze, is now 13 and lives with Romona Samuelson.

"I had nine people that wanted her, and so I worked very closely with the trainer at the Seeing Eye, also worked with Blaze's vet to find out what would be the best mix in order to find someone for her, the transition into retirement after being a working dog," said Polman.

Samuelson said Blaze is doing great. Unfortunately, Polman and Blaze haven't seen each other in three years.

"I think it's very hard for Greg, and I think it would be very hard for the dog, too, because she was very attached to Greg, and I think it was a difficult separation," said Samuelson.

There is a support group for guide dog owners at Blind Service Association. Debbie Grossman is the executive director.

"Who better than your own peer to help you through this ordeal?" said Grossman. "You know, we as human beings can understand. I think it must be very difficult for the dog to understand what's going on and why this is happening."

"Ellen has the life I wanted her to have in retirement," said Kieanna.

"She probably travels more and goes out more than people who retire," said Polman.

Grossman said there is no official place to contact about adopting retired guide dogs. Hopefully in the near future, there will be one. To get in touch with Blind Services Association call 312.236-0808.

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