Healthwise: Guiding Eyes for the Blind

By: Stephanie Satchell Email
By: Stephanie Satchell Email

February 23, 2011

In this week's Martha Jefferson Healthwise, CBS19's Stephanie Satchell highlights the work of an unique physical therapist hoping to make life much easier for one person living in a world of darkness.

Bette is a seven month old guide dog in training for the "Guiding Eyes for the Blind" program. Michele Howe works with Bette at the Martha Jefferson Outpatient Care Center in Charlottesville.

"Usually, we come to the Outpatient Care Center about 5:30 a.m. and go down to the gym where nobody is. There we run around the gym and play ball and work on her commands and then when my first patient comes at 6:30 a.m., she is here in the room with me and she is on a leash," said Michele Howe, a physical therapist.

Whether Howe is treating patients on the table or watching them walk on the treadmill, Bette tags along and learns how to interact with people.

"When she's a guide dog she'll be out in the world with her blind person, so bringing her to work she's able to meet a lot of people, she's able to learn how to sit and stay for prolonged periods," said Howe.

Howe says all the training will help to make Bette a better guide dog, and help the future owner of Bette to be more independent.

"It opens up their world they can travel throughout the city and know where they're going. It's also a great ice breaker people are very receptive to blind people with dogs, and they give them a certain sense of security," said Howe.

After her training, Bette will travel to New York for an evaluation. If she passes she will go through more intense training and then be paired with a blind person who needs her.

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