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(NECN: Brian Burnell, Bloomfield, Conn.) - Navy Lieutenant Brad Snyder lost his sight to an IED explosion in Afghanistan in 2011.
Far from letting that stop him, Lt. Snyder won Paralympic Gold at the London games last summer. But first rehab and then training left little time for him to look into getting a guide dog.
The Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation in Bloomfield, Conn. contacted Brad and offered to help.
So on Wednesday, he tried out a couple of dogs as they try him out. He walked with 65-pound female Gizzy, and 85-pound male Houston.
"Gizzy's a little bit more delicate with her movements, a little bit more decisive and doesn't pull quite as hard. And Houston's a big boy and he likes to get where he's going quickly so there's a big difference there."
Fidelco CEO Elliot Russman says this is about starting a relationship that will last at least 10 years.
"It's bonding, it's mutual respect and admiration and, most importantly for Brad, it's trusting the dog because the dog is going to be his eyesight and keep him safe," Russman says.
There is no question his guide dog will make a huge difference in Brad's already amazingly successful life. He travels a lot and needs help at every airport to get from the plane, through the terminal, to the taxi, into the hotel. A guide dog by his side, he says, "Allows me to take the train autonomously. Allows me to take planes and be a little bit more impulsive with my travel plans and makes me feel that I'm doing it myself as opposed to always having to be guided from spot to spot and that's huge to me."
He will also get a big chunk of his life back with the time he will save.
Russman did the math.
"It takes him 45-minutes now to walk from his home to the pool so he can train for the Rio Olympics because he's using the white cane, a slow and tedious process. With a guide dog they've already paced it out at 12 minutes," he says.
It’s not really a question of Brad choosing the dog. It's a question of Fidelco choosing the right dog for Brad.
Once that decision is made, a trainer will join Brad and his new partner in his home in Baltimore and work with them for about three weeks to help smooth the beginning of a beautiful friendship.