He may have been blinded by childhood accidents, but Morris Frank nevertheless possessed an inner vision to help the sight impaired through the vital work of guide dogs. Mr. Frank’s foresight into a better tomorrow is celebrated each year on January 29th– the anniversary of the world’s oldest existing guide dog school, The Seeing Eye.
The Origins of The Seeing Eye
An article which appeared in the pages of The Saturday Evening Post helped Morris Frank, an insurance salesman and college student enrolled at Vanderbilt University in the Roaring 20s, turn the page to a new chapter in his life. Inspired by the true tale of dogs who were being trained in Germany to offer support for World War I veterans who had lost their sight, Frank contacted the person who had penned the story, dog trainer Dorothy Harrison Eustis. In his missive he stated that “Thousands of blind like me abhor being dependent on others. Help me and I will help them. Train me and I will bring back my dog and show people here how a blind man can be absolutely on his own.”
Traveling to Fortunate Fields, Eustis’ dog training school in Switzerland, Morris Frank was paired with a German Shepherd he dubbed Buddy. Returning to America upon completion of the training program, Mr. Frank and Buddy opened the eyes of the world to the limitless opportunities open to those without sight when together they crossed a crowded New York City street in the presence of reporters.
Recalling the life-changing occasion, Frank said: “I shall never forget the next three minutes: 10-ton trucks rocketing past, cabs blowing their horns in our ears, drivers shouting at us. When we finally made it to the other side and I realized what an amazing job she had done, I leaned over and gave Buddy a great big hug and told her what a good, good girl she was.”
Partnering with Dorothy Harrison Eustis, Morris Frank co-founded The Seeing Eye in 1929. Originally located in Nashville, today the organization– which has paired 16,000 guide dog teams since its start– operates from Morris Township, New Jersey.
Buddy and her significant role in history has been remembered in a tome co-authored by her human, First Lady of the Seeing Eye, as well as in the children’s books Dog Diaries #2: Buddy and Morris and Buddy: The Story of the First Seeing Eye Dog. A made-for-TV movie in the 1980s, Love leads the Way: A True Story, also told their tale, while in the city of Morristown, New Jersey a statue stands which captures the special bond between Morris Frank and Buddy, the dog who gave the gift of self-reliance.