Seeing Eye, Inc., a New Jersey-based corporation that enhances the independence and dignity of blind people through the training and use of “Seeing Eye” dogs, traces its roots to Nashville and the effort of Morris Frank, a Nashville native. In 1927 Frank, totally blind since the age of sixteen, learned about a German program which used shepherd dogs as eyes for the blind. Frank contacted Dorothy Harrison Eustis, an American author living in the Swiss Alps who trained dogs to be guides for the Red Cross, police, and army. She had no experience training dogs to assist the blind, but she suggested that if Frank came to Switzerland, she would assist him in locating a dog and a qualified trainer.
Frank went to Switzerland and returned to Nashville with Buddy Fortunate Fields, a female German shepherd and the pioneering first of all Seeing Eye dogs. Frank and Buddy were a common sight in downtown Nashville for years. Frank successfully challenged the “no dogs allowed” codes on streetcars, elevators, and in restaurants. The concept of service dogs sharing space with humans in public places first gained social acceptance on the streets of Nashville.
Frank’s success encouraged him to establish an organization to train guide dogs for the blind. Naming the nonprofit corporation “The Seeing Eye,” a reference to a story about guide dogs in the Saturday Evening Post, Frank served as managing director, operating from his Richland Avenue home in Nashville. During its first year, however, the corporation moved to New Jersey where it has remained ever since. As the oldest guide dog school in the nation, Seeing Eye has matched more than eleven thousand trained guide dogs with blind men and women.