Brad Badger, who has been blind for nearly two years because of diabetes, told Bountiful Lions Club members recently about the many responsibilities involved in having a guide dog.
Badger, 24, of Bountiful, attended the Guide Dogs for the Blind school this summer in San Rafael, Calif., where he was paired with Tommie - an 80-pound golden retriever - and taught how to use the dog. The Bountiful Lions Club helped Badger pay for his transportation to and from the school."At the school, Tommie had guns fired over his head, was tempted with cats and was taught to lead me, in a harness. I had to learn to trust Tommie. Using a dog is much different than using a cane, and there was much for me to get used to at the school."
Badger said Tommie, who is 2 years and 2 months old, was raised by 4-H youths for about 13 months and spent nearly seven months at the school learning to be a guide dog. "I spent three days at the school learning more than two dozen guide dog commands, and then officials at the school paired up the dogs with the blind students, basing their choices on the personalities of the students."
Once Badger and Tommie were able to work together, they were sent into San Rafael and then into San Francisco and even into that city's bustling Chinatown. Badger said he spent 28 days at the school before returning home to Bountiful.
One of the biggest problems Badger faces, he told the Bountiful Lions, is taking care of Tommie - feeding him, watering him, making sure he is healthy and keeping him from being injured.
"Golden retrievers are traditionally bird dogs - among the finest - and whenever Tommie hears ducks I can feel a tiny quiver in his muscles - sort of like he would just love to go bird hunting, but, of course, he settles down immediately and does his job guiding me.
"He has not gotten along well with the chemicals sprayed on lawns to make them grow. He must have an allergy to the chemicals and has been a bit sick on occasion since arriving in Bountiful, but he is becoming use to the lawn spray."
Badger, who graduated from Bountiful High School in 1982, was an athlete and an outdoorsman before becoming blind, and he hopes eventually to spend a great deal of time out of doors, he told the Lions. "I don't want blindness to hold me back any more than I can help it."
He and Tommie board a UTA bus regularly and travel to Salt Lake Community College, where Badger is studying liberal arts courses. "I don't know what I want to do eventually. I was a meat cutter in high school and afterward worked as a computer assembler and drew blood as a phlebotomist at a blood clinic before I went blind."
Badger said his blindness occurred over a period of three months from October to December 1986. "We take our sight for granted, and I certainly wasn't prepared for what happened to me. I don't suppose anyone is."
He said Tommie is a good friend and companion and has helped widen his mobility, "but he is a big responsibility and a companion I must take good care of."