THE TRAVELING MATHEMATICIAN
Dorothy Harrison Eustis was inspired by the capabilities of
her pet German shepherd Hans. She was impressed at the
dog's ability to not simply perform the tricks of a "show dog" but
to perform jobs that could help humans. She turned this interest
into a project that helped the lives of blind people by opening the
first training school for guide dogs in the U.S.
Dorothy grew up in an affluent Philadelphia neighborhood where she was taught the importance of civic duty and was exposed to a great variety of animals at her family's summer home.
This love of animals led her to breed and train police dogs in Switzerland. While traveling, she was intrigued by a school in Potsdam, Germany that trained dogs to help blind World War I veterans. Dorothy knew they were on to something important.
She wrote an impassioned article about the importance of the school that was published in the The Saturday Evening Post. This article would go on to not only change Dorothy's life, but the lives of countless blind individuals.
Her article, The Seeing Eye, garnered much interest, and she received many letters in response. One letter was very special. It came from Morris Frank, a blind man from Tennessee who longed to live a more independent life. He asked her to train a dog for him and in return he would train others to do the same.
Dorothy was so moved by Frank's letter that she flew him to Switzerland and followed through with his request. After a 5-week training session, she sent him back with a trained guide dog, knowledge, and 10,000 dollars to help others. His lessons were in such demand that she soon followed him to Tennessee and opened a school for guide dogs and the blind.
The school, finished in 1929, was also called The Seeing Eye -- the term now widely used for guide dogs. The Seeing Eye Inc. soon expanded and moved to its current location in Morristown, NJ where it continues to help over 8,000 blind men and women regain their independence and where they've trained more than 15,000 dogs.
Throughout her life Dorothy devoted much of her wealth and time to the company. She served as the school's president until 1940 and then became Honorary President where she continued working to get publicity, funds, volunteers, and scientists to continue to work to better the breed and the school.
Her school became a model for the many others that have since opened around the world.
Dorothy was instrumental in helping others realize that the blind can have independent lives and she is often credited with helping change society's views of people with disabilities. She also saw potential to use animals in a beneficial way.
As she said in her article, "To think that one small dog could stand for so much in the life of a human being, not only in his usual role of companion, but as his eyes, sword, and shield! How many humans could fill those roles with the same uncomplaining devotion and untiring fidelity?"