New Guide Dog Africa has awful big pawprints to fill.

Michael Hingson getting hug from Guide Dog Roselle

Michael Hingson getting hug from Guide Dog Roselle

Michael Hingson has been a Guide Dog user for the past 43 years, his Guide Dogs all provided to him at no cost by Guide Dogs for the Blind. (You can learn more about guide dogs at our foundation site.)

Michael became world famous after the attacks on 9/11. His Guide Dog Roselle led him from the 78th floor of the World Trade Center and away from the collapsing buildings to safety. Roselle was asleep under Hingson’s desk during the terrorist attacks, and helped lead Hingson down all those stairs to the street through a hazy maze of debris and chaos.

Dickin Medal "For Gallantry"RoselleRoselle was inducted into the Alabama Veterinary Medical Association Hall of Fame, and received a number of awards for her teamwork with Michael. She was awarded the Dickin Medal from Britain for her devotion to duty. The medal is recognized worldwide as “the animals’ Victoria Cross” (in American terms, the animal equivalent of the Congressional Medal of Honor). Roselle was also awarded the Kennel Club 2002 Ace Award for Service Dog of the Year. Several years ago she developed a blood disorder and took an early retirement. Michael has no proof but is quite certain that the disorder is a result of the toxic fumes and dust she inhaled on that horrendous day in 2001.

Roselle has since retired and officially hung up her harness over a year ago, the San Rafael, CA based Guide Dogs for the Blind throwing her a huge retirement party, complete with a 21-gun salute. Today, Roselle is relaxing as a pampered pet in the Hingson home in northern California.

But, moving on, Michael has needed to begin a partnership with a new guide dog. Honestly, I cannot imagine how stressful that must be, for both the handler and the dog who now must understand that s/he does not get to be out and about as much, and needs to learn to accept a life of leisure rather than work. Roselle led Michael for 7 years and as he says “remains my friend, a member of my family and a hero to me and so many others”. But, his next guide dog Meryl, who had worked with him this past year and a half, had to be retired.

My sixth guide dog Meryl succeeded Roselle and has been my guide for the past year and a half. Unfortunately, Meryl has not been able to adapt well to the constantly changing demands of my active schedule. Last week, I had to retire Meryl to relieve her from the stress she was exhibiting while guiding.

For any blind person who has to retire a guide dog, the change associated with transitioning from one guide to another is difficult and sometimes can be very traumatic. For my part, I know that retiring Meryl was the best thing that I could do for her. She returned to Guide Dogs for the Blind for a complete evaluation, with the possibility that she be retrained and reissued to another blind person where she can be a better match. Meantime, I eagerly wait to see who my seventh guide dog will be.

Well, Michael brought home his newest Guide Dog, Africa, on November 13, 2008, and he has set up a wonderful diary to document his training with her. It is a marvelous insight into the world of guide dogs and their development. Just click here to learn more and travel a most unique journey with Michael & Africa.

Michael Hingson with new Guide Dog Africa

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