1 May 2023
Service dogs have become a familiar sight in today’s society. These highly trained dogs play an essential role in assisting people with disabilities and medical conditions, from helping those with visual impairments navigate the world to alerting their handlers of impending seizures. But where did the concept of a service dog first originate, and who was the first service dog?
The history of service dogs can be traced back to ancient times. Ancient Egyptians used dogs to help people with physical disabilities, and the Greeks used dogs to guide the blind. In the modern era, the first documented service dog use can be attributed to Morris Frank and his dog, Buddy.
Morris Frank was a young man who lost his vision due to an accident at the age of 16. Before his accident, Frank had been an active and adventurous person, but his blindness made him feel helpless and dependent on others. He longed for independence and a way to live a normal life despite his disability.
One day, Frank read an article about a dog trained to assist a woman who had lost sight. The dog, a German Shepherd named Buddy, had been trained by Dorothy Harrison Eustis, an American dog trainer living in Switzerland. Eustis had been training dogs for the military and saw potential in training dogs to assist people with disabilities.
Frank contacted Eustis and requested that she train a dog for him. Eustis agreed, and Frank traveled to Switzerland to meet Buddy and undergo training with him. Frank and Buddy’s training was intense and rigorous. Buddy was trained to guide Frank through the streets, help him navigate obstacles, and alert him to danger.
After their training was complete, Frank and Buddy returned to the United States, where they immediately attracted attention from the media. Frank and Buddy’s story was featured in newspapers and on radio programs, making them overnight celebrities. Their story captured the public’s imagination and gave hope to people with disabilities who longed for greater independence.
Frank and Buddy’s story also helped to popularize the concept of service dogs. In the years following their return to the United States, Eustis founded The Seeing Eye, the first guide dog school in the United States. The Seeing Eye trained dogs to guide people with visual impairments, and many other organizations followed suit, training dogs to assist people with a wide range of disabilities and medical conditions.
Frank and Buddy continued to work together as a team for many years. They traveled the country, giving demonstrations of Buddy’s abilities and educating the public about the potential of service dogs. They even appeared in a movie together, “The First Seeing Eye,” in 1929.
Today, service dogs are a common sight in many public places. They are trained to perform a wide range of tasks, from guiding people with visual impairments to alerting their handlers to medical conditions like seizures and low blood sugar. Service dogs are highly trained and must pass rigorous tests before they can be certified to work with their handlers.
The concept of a service dog was revolutionary when Morris Frank and Buddy first appeared on the scene. Their story gave hope to people with disabilities and helped to pave the way for the widespread acceptance of service dogs in today’s society. Their legacy lives on in the countless service dogs that continue to assist people with disabilities and medical conditions, improving their quality of life and giving them greater independence.
Morris Frank and Buddy’s story is inspiring. They were pioneers in the world of service dogs, and their legacy lives on today. Thanks to their efforts, many people with disabilities have been able to live more independent and fulfilling lives. Their story serves as a reminder of the incredible bond that can exist between humans and dogs and the amazing things that can be achieved when that bond is put to work.