Dog is friend, eyesto former professor



    Clyde Sullivan, a former BYU professor of clinical psychology, who has been legally blind for four years, recently received a guide dog from Guide Dogs for the Blind.

    Sullivan lost his sight due to a macular degeneration, which affects one out of every five people over the age of 65.

    “The ophthalmologist saw it coming 15 years ago,” Sullivan said. “I managed to prevent it and keep it off longer than most people using preventative measures like dieting. And I’ve also had a few laser surgeries.”

    Since his blindness, Sullivan has been using a cane to get around — until he was almost hit by a car.

    “I was walking with my cane at the northeast corner of the (Provo) temple. A young man was driving down the road and I think he was more occupied with his girlfriend and didn’t see me. He passed within about 2 feet of my cane,” Sullivan said. “It scared me to death.”

    But since Sullivan has had his dog, Perez, to guide him, crossing traffic has become much easier.

    “The other day, I took a journey I would not usually do, crossing a highway. I told him to take me across the street. He said `no’ and sure enough within a minute or two a car crossed right in front of us,” Sullivan said. “He can see things that I can’t.”

    To Sullivan, a hole in front of him may look like a shadow on the sidewalk, and stairs look like a ramp.

    As part of Sullivan’s training at Guide Dogs for the Blind, he was taught to trust his dog — especially while crossing traffic.

    But despite the benefits of having a guide dog, only one to three percent of blind people in the United States use a dog.

    “Most blind people use white canes, or they rely on friends and family and they go with people that are sighted,” said Morry Angell, spokesperson for Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, Calif. “Guide dogs are a big commitment. They’re not for everyone.”

    But a guide dog can help the blind to avoid dangers in ways that a cane cannot. “A cane doesn’t find overhead obstacles, like low hanging tree branches,” Angell said.

    There are 10 facilities in the United States that train guide dogs.

    Guide Dogs are funded by private donations so that the service may be provided free to those who need it.

    “I couldn’t buy the dog,” Sullivan said. “The Eagles in Utah sponsored me. It helps them to maintain their selectivity.”

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