Organizations exist all across the country that train and place service dogs in homes where they are needed. These dogs go through a rigorous screening process and many, many months of training. It’s easy to find a home that needs one of these dogs. But what happens when it’s one of these dogs who is in need of a home? What happens to a dog that doesn’t make it through the screening process? That’s where people like Michael and Diane Levine come in.
Back in 1990, the Levines were living in Rhode Island and were looking for an addition to their family. They’d always loved dogs, but didn’t want to raise a puppy. That’s when they heard about Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a non-profit organization in New York that provides trained guide dogs for the visually impaired. They didn’t need a guide dog, but they were interested in adopting one of the program’s dropouts.
Dogs can be “released” from the program for many different reasons. According to the Guiding Eyes for the Blind website, the most common reason for a puppy to be released is that “the dog’s personality trait indicates a pup who seeks human support when under pressure.” Young adult dogs who have been through training may be released if they “show signs of worry in certain situations” or “appears to lack the fortitude for guide work.”
The Levines have welcomed three of these so-called “flunkies” into their home and couldn’t be happier. “I think raising a puppy is a lot of work,” says Levine. That’s why he thought this program was such a great idea. “They’re already trained,” he says, “They’re housebroken and they know basic commands.”
Taz was the first dog they adopted after being on a waiting list for about six months. Mandy was their next addition. She didn’t actually flunk out of the program, but rather, was released because of a medical condition. Although it was a minor problem, it is the policy of Guiding Eyes not to use guide dogs that have a health problem. A few years after they got Mandy, and after Taz had passed away, the Levines brought Jack into their home.
Levine says Jack flunked out of the program. “He was chasing squirrels or something like that,” he says with a grin. Levine says they would like to adopt another dog from a similar program eventually. The demand is so high for released dogs from Guiding Eyes that the anticipated wait for those who have already submitted applications is four years.
These released dogs make wonderful pets, and Mandy and Jack are proof of that. The adopted sister and brother are the best of friends, get to sleep on the bed and enjoy all the pleasures of being a dog. And Michael and Diane Levine get to enjoy all the pleasures that come with living with these two faithful companions. It is said that often the traits that make dogs unsuitable for “work” are the very traits that make them the perfect companion dogs.