Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Meet Guide Dog, Panzy

Dogs have helped guide people who are blind or visually impaired for many years. I found several people who are "puppy raisers" or people who volunteer to be foster families for puppies but I decided to approach The Seeing Eye in Morristown, New Jersey to find a guide dog and his partner for the Guide Dog Heroes  book. Living in close proximity to such a great resource I was able to tour their facility where they offered me access to their library and they even let a photographer take some great photos of guide dogs and their partners in action on the streets of Morristown.

ISBN 978-0-7660-3198-2
I never had the opportunity to meet Izzy and his guide dog Panzy in person during the writing of this book. Izzy was busy at school so we did the initial interview over the phone and then followed up with emails. Izzy explained that his email program reads aloud to him since he can't read from the computer. During school visits I explain to children how Izzy never had a guide dog until he went to college and found it difficult to get around both on campus and in his dorm room. When Izzy told me all the different ways Panzy helped him to lead a more independent life it touched my heart. He told me how Panzy helped him to ride the right train so he didn't have to rely on other people take him back and forth to school or work. My favorite story he told me was the time he took Panzy to class with the most boring teacher ever and even Panzy didn't want to stay he was so bored. Izzy made me laugh and cry with his stories.

All of the dogs featured in this series are heroes in their own special way. I'm grateful that I had the opportunity to speak with so many incredible people who have either changed people's lives by their passion for their work with dogs or have had their lives changed by a dog. A very wise person who knew little about this project told me I needed to go out and meet the dogs. She suggested I go to the dog show to speak with dog handlers. I realized later that maybe going to the dog show wasn't exactly right but perhaps her words  about meeting the dogs and their handlers was what I needed to take away from our conversation. It not only brought something special to each one of these books but it forever changed the way I view dogs.

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