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Building Trust: Dean & His Six Shepherds

Dean is guided by Gus, a black and tan German shepherd, along the sidewalk of an apartment building.

Dean was born with retinitis pigmentosa, a progressive eye disease that caused his vision to deteriorate over time. Gradual vision loss was hard for Dean, and eventually, he reached a point where he no longer felt comfortable traveling alone. That’s when he decided it was time for a guide dog.

In 1985, The Seeing Eye matched Dean with his first dog, a German shepherd named Heidi. Dean remembers his instructor handing him the leash and saying, “This is Heidi. She doesn’t know you yet. You have three-and-a-half weeks to get to know each other and begin to work as a team.” 

Dean took those words to heart. He realized it couldn’t just be about him trusting Heidi to keep him safe; he needed to make sure Heidi trusted him as well.

It’s been 35 years, and Dean has traveled with Heidi, Quentin, Patty, Houston, Thor, and now Gus, all German shepherds. Each time The Seeing Eye has paired Dean with a new dog, he recalled the lessons he learned with Heidi. The more trust he builds, the more he and his dog can do.

Dean is almost 80 years old, retired, and busier than ever! With Gus by his side, Dean goes to the gym, walks with neighbors and friends, volunteers with his church, donates blood, and more. 

“I thought I’d be sitting in a rocking chair, but every day is a new adventure,” Dean explains.