blind_html Fwd: [nagdu] USA Today Article

  • From: Nimer Jaber <nimerjaber1@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: blind_html@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 30 Jul 2009 23:12:17 -0600

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [nagdu] USA Today Article
Date: Thu, 30 Jul 2009 22:19:13 -0400
From: sblanjones11 <sblanjones11@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Reply-To: NAGDU Mailing List, the National Association of Guide Dog Users <nagdu@xxxxxxxxxx>
To: sblanjones11 <sblanjones11@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>

A most interesting article about a remarkable man who sought the help of a
guide dog, and had to overcome an almost insufferable fear of dogs to do it!
Blinded by Nazis, guided by a dog

Sharon L. Peters



Max Edelman, a sprightly gentleman with a potent laugh, huge social network
and vast array of interests, surges through life. At 86, he figures he's got
too much to do to slow down. Blind for decades, he receives a little help
from Tobin, a placid black Lab. 

Like each of the thousands of service dogs, Tobin has been bred and trained
to help keep his owner safe and independent. And like the thousands of
people who are paired without charge with a dog, Edelman has undergone
training to make the most of the union. 

But Edelman was far from typical when, in 1990, he traveled from his home in
Lyndhurst, Ohio, to Guiding Eyes for the Blind in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., to
get his first-ever guide dog. For one thing, he was nearly 70. Back then,
says Guiding Eyes' Graham Buck, almost all clients were much younger, mostly
kids blind as a result of premature births. 

But it wasn't Edelman's age that was the biggest challenge. It was his back

The things he'd seen and endured would have destroyed most men -- and did,
in fact, kill millions. He suffered years of starvation and beatings and
spirit-crushing cruelty, including an eight-day forced march just before the
U.S. Army arrived to liberate the German camps. He spent 192 grueling hours
without food or water, during which 1,700 of the 2,500 prisoners collapsed
and were shot by the side of the road. 

Somehow Edelman, a Jew sent to Nazi concentration camps when he was 17 and
freed at 22, managed to survive. He was blinded in a vicious beating by
guards --"for no real reason. It was sport for them, they enjoyed inflicting
pain" -- months before his rescue. 

He was trained as a physical therapist, married and immigrated to the USA in
1951. He landed a job in the X-ray department at the Cleveland Clinic and
built a life -- more or less successfully moving beyond the memories of the
camps, including the death of his father. 

He coped reasonably well with survivor guilt and was largely able, except at
night when nightmares invaded his sleep, to deflect the awful images that
were the last he would actually see. 

There was one thing he couldn't vanquish: the memory of one night in the

The commandant was holding a party for like-minded people. As part of the
evening's entertainment, he ordered that several prisoners be lined up.
Edelman was among them. The commandant eyed the men, made a decision about
who would die and ordered his massive German shepherd to attack. The dog
lunged, grabbed the prisoner by the throat and killed him. 

>From that night forward, Edelman's fear of dogs was intractable. 

But when he retired, he wanted to relieve his wife of the job of taking him
everywhere he wanted to go. A guide dog would be ideal. 

He mustered his courage, attended the 26-day Guiding Eyes training, was
coached patiently through his dog phobia, and went home with Calvin, a
chocolate Lab. 

The two had the skills to mesh as a team, but Edelman couldn't connect,
didn't really know how to trust the animal. He was appreciative of Calvin as
a "tool to get around," he says, but formed no bond. Guiding Eyes experts
provided additional help. 

"If I failed at this, it would not be for lack of effort," he says. 

But Calvin knew something was off. The dog had been around people all of his
two years; he knew how things were supposed to be, and this wasn't it. He
lost weight and was depressed. The vet said he sensed Edelman's emotional

One day, at a crosswalk, Edelman heard the traffic stop and gave Calvin the
"forward" command. A driver made a sudden, sharp right turn and was upon the
two without warning. 

Watchful Calvin stopped instantly, and the two returned to the sidewalk. "He
had saved both of us from serious injury," Edelman says. He hugged Calvin,
and the barrier dissolved. "From that day on it was love. We both

Calvin served him well for nine years and retired with an adoptive family.
Then came Silas, a yellow Lab who forged a solid bond with Edelman; he died
last year. Edelman misses Silas deeply. "When we were on our 3-mile walks
and I'd get lost in thought and have no idea where we were, he'd get me

But he and Tobin, who were paired earlier this month, are bonding. Last
week, the dog accompanied Edelman to a college campus where he spoke about
the Holocaust. Edelman accepts two or more such invitations most weeks,
after decades of silence. "Survivors are few in number now," he says, "so we
have to bear a larger load." 

Tobin eases the way. 

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Copyright 2009 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

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