GARDEN GROVE (CBSLA.com) — The oldest existing guide dog school in the world is helping the visually impaired gain a sense of independence with the help of a four-legged friend.
Blinded by a bombing while serving in Iraq, army veteran Jesse Acosta is now aided by his guide dog Charlie.
“The doctors said that it looked promising for me that I would survive,” said Acosta. “But that I would have to be accustomed to being blind.”
Acosta says Charlie does more than just help him get around Garden Grove.
“He has calmed me down with my PTSD,” said Acosta.
“It’s just like, you know having a focus and a purpose in life,” he said. “You have to take care of that animal who’s going to take care of you.”
CBS2’s Sharon Tay got an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at how seeing eye dogs are learning the skills they need to guide the blind from their very first steps as puppies.
At The Seeing Eye, dogs are trained using different objects and toys designed to teach them physical skills while also discovering different textures and noises.
“They have to look out for tree branches that would hang down and hit the person in the head,” said Peggy Gibbon, director of canine development at The Seeing Eye.
At eight weeks old, the puppies are placed with temporary families.
Melissa Baumgartners and her daughter Katelyn are raising their eighth dog, a German Shepherd puppy named Yogi.
“I tell him he’s growing up for greater things,” said Baumgartners. “And he’s going to be a hero when he grows up.”
Daughter Katelyn said it’s hard to give the dogs up, but they know their sacrifice is for the greater good.
“I am so grateful to them for what they do for the blind community,” Acosta said. “Little did they know they would be helping not just the blind community but those of us coming home with PTSD.”
For more information on The Seeing Eye, visit their website.