Service for Sight Grant Creates a Perfect Pair
This is the story of Ed and Sully, a perfect partnership that was made possible by a Service for Sight grant from the Delta Gamma Foundation to Southeastern Guide Dogs. Ed and Sully are an inspiring pair and are proud to share their story with you.
Ed Burton is a U.S. Navy veteran and operating engineer mechanic, who was unable to continue serving due to vision loss. Having lost his sense of purpose in a sighted world, Ed felt adrift and isolated. But Sully, a four-legged firecracker full of energy, nicknamed his "Alfa Romeo sports car" wouldn’t let Ed give up. Now, these two are living life to the fullest, side by side, ready for any adventure.
Before receiving his first guide dog, Ed was using only a cane. Although the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs kept telling Ed he should consider getting a guide dog to aid mobility and independence, Ed was not interested at the time. For the most part, he managed to get around without too much trouble, except one day when he crossed the street while jogging with his cane. He didn’t hear anyone coming, so he proceeded into the crosswalk. A car quickly approached and turned right without stopping and hit him on his left side. It became apparent to Ed that he needed a guide dog as a result of the accident.
The process of being matched with a guide dog is extensive. The applicant completes a detailed questionnaire and phone screening about their lifestyle, where they live, what they like to do, and anything else that might help them find their perfect partner. The puppy raisers also take notes about the dogs they are raising through the process. Using all the information collected, the center determines which dog will best suit the recipient. There is typically a backup dog in case the first match doesn’t work – sometimes it is just a matter of trial and error.
For Ed, once he was matched with Sully, he attended a puppy boot camp for 26 days where he lived on campus and learned how to work with his new companion. His favorite moments with Sully during that first month were recalled by Ed: “My favorite part of the training was about the second week in, as you’re bonding. I was with Sully and told her to sit and stay with the trainers. They then took me and sat me down in a chair in a different section of the hallway and I called to her. She came running and launched herself and hit me in the chest.”
Now, one year later, Ed is living an independent life. He is passionate about sharing his story and how receiving a guide dog changed his life. “I trust my life with this dog. She keeps me from falling into holes, running into tree limbs, and so much more. She has literally saved my life twice. It’s amazing the work they do. And the dogs just seem to know who needs them.”
And the story gets even sweeter – Sully’s puppy-raiser is a Delta Gamma! Cheryl Hoffman Zsido Poage, Gamma Upsilon-Wichita State, was integral in Sully’s fundamental training, bringing this do good story full circle.
Cheryl shared, “I began raising puppies for Southeastern Guide Dogs in 2015 as a part of a service learning project with my students. I have raised six puppies for Southeastern Guide Dogs, including Sully. We received Sully at 8 weeks old, and we worked with her until she was 18 months old. As a puppy-raiser, we are responsible for teaching our pups basic cues and socialization, and Southeastern Guide Dogs provides the puppy raisers with all the resources needed to successfully raise the pups. Once the puppy reaches anywhere from 14-18 months they are called back to Southeastern Guide Dogs to begin formal training. This is done by professional trainers, and this is where the puppies begin training for various careers, including Guide Dogs, Veteran Service Dogs or a handful of other careers. Once the puppy graduates, the match process begins, and the puppy will be placed with its handler.
Sully was a fun pup to raise. She was very smart and loved to work. When she saw her coat, she knew it was time to go out and practice her cues — nothing made her happier than that. When she was off work, she was a silly girl just like any other lab puppy you might meet. My favorite things about raising Sully were her can-do attitude and confidence. She was always up for the next challenge whether it was canine fitness, working on distractions, or fine-tuning basic cues. When we turned Sully back over to Southeastern Guide Dogs, she never once looked back. It was almost as if she was saying, ‘I’ve got this!’”
Southeastern Guide Dogs reaches a variety of people in need and offers guide dogs to adults and teens with vision loss, as well as service dogs to veterans with PTSD and other disabilities, all at no charge to the recipient. They also provide skilled companion dogs, facility therapy dogs and Gold Star Family Dogs to individuals and families facing emotional hardships, such as depression or the loss of a loved one in the military. If you are interested in becoming a puppy raiser or would like more information on the services Southeastern Guide Dogs provides, please visit www.guidedogs.org.
The Delta Gamma Foundation is committed to supporting organizations that share our mission of Service for Sight. In the 2021-2022 fiscal year, the Foundation awarded 63 Service for Sight grants totaling $400,000 to national organizations to fund programs benefiting people living with blindness or low vision.