By Langley Cornwell
Established in August of 2009, the Blind Dog Rescue Alliance – started by Karen and Eric Belfi – is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit group that spans the United States and Canada. Run entirely by volunteers, the organization’s mission is to aid blind and visually impaired dogs. Their work includes rescuing blind dogs from shelters, assisting blind dog owners, and educating the public about these wonderful canines and the joy of caring for one.
The Belfi’s interest in visually impaired dogs began when they were searching for a companion for their Siberian husky. As they combed the Internet for an available orphan, the dog that captured their hearts was blind (appropriately named Ray Charles). As a responsible pet owner, Karen Belfi located an online discussion group dedicated to blind dog care and advocacy; she wanted to learn about a visually impaired dog’s special requirements. The group assured Karen that a blind dog’s needs aren’t much different than the needs of a ‘regular dog,’ so a match was made.
Karen and Eric remained active in the Internet discussion forum. They watched as the list of visually compromised adoptable dogs increased. Sadly, the list grew so large that otherwise healthy dogs were not finding homes in time, and were being euthanized. Unable to stand by and watch this trend, they joined forces with a few others in the discussion group and formed the Blind Dog Rescue Alliance.
I was first made aware of this fine organization through my own online involvement with animal advocacy. When I was a kid our neighbors had a blind dog named Spooky (she was born on Halloween). When Spooky had puppies, I got the pick of her litter as a birthday present. I chose her runt, and that’s when my lifelong love affair with animals began – so Spooky holds a special place in my heart. I was amazed to watch sightless Spooky navigate the neighborhood. We lived on a dead-end street and there were no leash laws at the time, so she could come and go as she pleased. If you weren’t told, you might not notice that Spooky couldn’t see. She was one cool dog, as was her puppy. When I heard of the Blind Dog Rescue Alliance, the organization caught my interest immediately. I wanted to know more.
In the two years since the organization was established, they have expanded through the United States and Canada. Most of the volunteers offer foster homes for the dogs until they can be placed in forever homes. So far, the Blind Dog Rescue Alliance has saved 175 blind or vision impaired dogs, many of which had to be transported long distances to safety. The group attributes most of their growth and success to a strong Internet presence. You can follow them via their Facebook page and Twitter.
The Blind Dog Rescue Alliance website is packed with helpful information including blind dog tips, stories and videos from blind dog owners, and an overview of common eye disorders. There’s also a list of adoptable dogs seeking good homes. The rescue group is always looking for volunteers, donations, and help with transporting rescued dogs, so visit the website if you’re so inclined. All donations are tax deductible and go towards the care of their foster animals.
Ever helpful, I asked president Karen Belfi what has been their greatest accomplishment to date. She said: “I think just forming the rescue and growing it to the size we did is a huge accomplishment. We started with around 20 people pulling one dog. Now we have over 150 volunteers and nearly 200 dogs saved.” That’s quite an accomplishment indeed.
Read more articles by Langley Cornwell
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