Disabled Vet Secures New Chance for Guide Dog

A local veteran is closer than ever to a positive outcome thanks to the help of Sandpoint resident and advocate, Cecelia Myers. She and Bill Yeager, a disabled vet in desperate need of a service dog, recently received confirmation from Leader Dogs for the Blind of Rochester Hills, Mich., that he is scheduled to receive one in August or September.

Myers, a speech therapist at Life Care Center of Sandpoint, has been working independently for months to help find a guide animal for Yeager. In April, Yeager, who is legally blind after suffering a stroke, came within a hair’s breadth of obtaining one from Guide Dogs for the Blind, a California firm which sent a dog and handler to Yeager for a week-long trial. The trainer determined that, due to loose dogs rushing them as they walked through Yeager’s neighborhood, the situation was unsafe and took the animal back.

The situation has improved, however, due to the help of Jennifer Stapleton, city administrator, and Police Chief Corey Coon, who took up Yeager’s cause with determination. Not only have they apprised dog owners in Yeager’s neighborhood about leash laws, but they have also established a trial dog control program to address violations of city animal code.

Myers has taken videos of Yeager on his customary walks to show Leader Dogs decision makers how he navigates with just a white cane. “She has been working on this for about a year,” said Cecelia’s husband Don. “She took two weeks off from work to make the videos.”

Leader Dogs trains a new crop of service animals each month and has notified Yeager they should have one suited to his needs by early autumn. A trainer will accompany the animal and will remain for about two weeks to help the dog and its owner get acquainted.

“Leader Dog has field representatives, who are trained guide dog mobility instructors and/or certified O&M specialists, who can assist clients with transition and working problems. ¬†Field representatives…conduct home deliveries for client needing to be trained in their home environments.” according to the organization.

“With the help of the community, we hope the previous problem of loose dogs won’t be an issue this time,” he said, noting that this may be Yeager’s final chance to get the service animal he needs.

“It would be a great early Christmas present,” Myers said.