One morning in August 2009 when James Bradley was going for a walk in his neighborhood in Burleson, he was struck by his neighbor’s hybrid car backing out of the drive way. Bradley depends on sound because he is visually impaired. During the accident, he injured his shoulder which led to him having surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff.
“Now they have those silent hybrid cars, so I didn’t hear it coming,” Bradley, age 50, said. “I wasn’t going to get another dog but I hurt my shoulder, and it scared me enough to get another guide dog because they’ll stop you when things like that happen.”
Sandy Merrill, GDTX director of training, said Bradley’s story is not uncommon. Although guide dogs have the ability to react to sound to warn their owners of danger, sometimes that is not enough.
“Because people with visual impairment rely heavily on sound, hybrids pose an extreme hazard,” Merrill said, adding that consumers can call the manufacturer of their car and request a sound device be installed in their vehicle. Doing so will increase safety for the visually impaired.
In October 2011, Guide Dogs of Texas matched Bradley with Buddy, a half Golden Retriever and half Labrador (Golden Lab). Buddy is his first dog from GDTX but his third dog so far. Bradley was without a guide dog for about 20 years. He received his first guide dog, a black Labrador, at age 22. After losing the dog in a car accident, Bradley got his second guide dog when he was 25-years-old. That dog had to be put to sleep because of old age.
After losing two guide dogs, Bradley didn’t want to get another one because he said he didn’t want to have to go through the ordeal of losing another guide dog. “They’re not just a pet,” he said. “They’re with you 24/7. It’s a partnership. You depend on them, and they depend on you.”
Bradley is quite content to have Buddy in his life. “He is my first dog from Guide Dogs of Texas. He is very sweet and timid,” Bradley said. “He definitely has a lot more personality and will let you know when he wants attention. I really like Guide Dogs of Texas because they genuinely care about their dogs and make sure you are perfectly matched with the right dog.”
Bradley said the retraining process was relatively different from what he was previously accustomed to. He spent three weeks at the GDTX school in San Antonio and an additional week back in his hometown of Burleson with a trainer, who taught Buddy his routes.
Bradley was diagnosed with glaucoma at an early age and continued to have deteriorating vision until he was certified as blind at 17. At a time when teenagers his age were getting their driver’s license, he had to learn to live as an independent visually impaired person.
Bradley celebrated his one year anniversary with Buddy last October and plans on spending many years with his new companion.