Partnership with Guide Dog Foundation Provides Genetic Insights
Making one’s way through the world wearing a blindfold would be a real challenge. On a recent trip to the East Coast, Dr. Diane Brown, the Foundation’s chief scientific officer, and Nancy Kay Clark, senior study participants specialist for the Canine Lifetime Health Project, had a chance to gain some understanding of what living without sight would be like.
They visited with Grete Eide, chief canine care officer at Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind Inc., whose organization provides guide dogs free of charge to people who are blind, visually impaired or with other special needs. Grete and the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind have four Golden Retrievers from their breeding group enrolled in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study.
Diane and Nancy toured the organization’s facility, interacted with trainers and dogs in training, and experienced what it was like to walk alongside a guide dog on an outdoor training course while blindfolded. It didn’t take long for them to understand the trust one builds with a guide dog!
Grete and her staff told our team how imperative it is for working dogs to remain healthy and by their partner’s side long-term. It costs more than $50,000 to raise and train a single guide dog. When a guide dog is diagnosed with cancer, it is particularly devastating to the handler who relies on their canine partner for independence. These human partners share the same deep emotional bond with their canine helpers that all dog owners feel with their dogs.
For Grete, it was logical to support the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study. The Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind maintains excellent breeding records (full of valuable genetic information) and has an enthusiastic veterinary staff willing to participate in the study.
Grete is hopeful that the information generated from this study will serve as a springboard for more studies that provide a better understanding of the genetic influences on the diseases that shorten dogs’ lives.
“Armed with better genetic information, we can make breeding decisions that result in healthier dogs,” she says. “It would be one of the kindest things we could do for the dogs we breed and the people we serve.”
Morris Animal Foundation is especially grateful to the people at the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind for devoting their time and energy to making this study for Golden Retrievers and all dogs a success, ultimately improving the health and longevity of pets and working dogs alike. To learn more about Morris Animal Foundation and our other programs please visit morrisanimalfoundation.org.