Near one corner of the fabled Morristown Green, in the heart of our most historic city, is an amazing statue. It shows a man in a natty, three-piece suit, holding onto a handsome German Shepherd with a harness.
Painted in natural colors, it is so lifelike that at first glance they actually look alive. But no, they’re just tributes to a pair of “Firsts,” and another proud piece of New Jersey lore.
The man is Morris Frank, with his faithful pal, Buddy. When they arrived in Manhattan in 1928, they became the first guide dog team in the country. Mr. Frank founded a kennel and a training center for such pets, headquartered here. And thus, was born The Seeing Eye, the most respected purveyor of trained dogs in the nation, if not the world.
Here, as Paul Harvey used to say, is the rest of the story.
Back in the 1920’s, An American woman named Dorothy Harrison Eustis moved to Switzerland to train German Shepherds for police forces. She was soon joined by another U.S. expatriate, a geneticist and breeder named Jack Humphrey.
As their pioneering work advanced, they began to notice the legion of World War I veterans who’d been blinded in battle. They heard about schools in Germany that were teaching dogs to help these soldiers.
(New Paragraph) Eustis wrote an article about the breakthrough for the Saturday Evening Post, entitled The Seeing Eye. It was the first time the now copy-writed phrase was used. After its publication in November of 1927, she was deluged with letters asking for a dog. One such appeal stood out: it was from a 19-year-old from Nashville who’d been blinded in two childhood accidents, a young man named Morris Frank.
What made his request special was a promise he made. In exchange for a dog, he’d travel the country to raise awareness and then build a new training school in America.
Frank’s appeal worked. Eustis and Humphrey modified their program to include assisting the visually impaired, and a mere six months later, Frank joined them to begin his own training. He was paired with a female Shepherd named Kiss, whose name he changed to Buddy. Over the course of his lifetime, Frank would use a total of six dogs, all called Buddy. Today, the Seeing Eye has retired the name in tribute.
It took only a few weeks for Buddy and Frank to master the guiding techniques, which enabled them to remain safe on busy streets, to climb stairs, enter busy stores and avoid any obstacle that posed a risk.
The new year (1929) found Eustis with Frank back in Nashville, where they first chartered The Seeing Eye. Their challenge was monumental, as they not only lacked adequate funding but also enough trainers to meet the need.
There was also widespread skepticism that dogs could guide the blind, or that they should be permitted in public spaces. But the pair was determined, and good as his word Frank began an exhaustive tour of the nation to spread the word and raise money.
(New Paragraph) Seeking cooler weather and all four seasons for training, they moved to Whippany in the 1930’s. By 1965 The Seeing Eye, now world-famous, acquired their current sites in Morris County.