Long Island nonprofit provides free guide dogs to the visually impaired

Traveling up and down stairs can be challenging for 23-year-old Samantha Ambrico-Custer, but thanks to her guide dog, Leo, it’s just another simple part of her day. 

“To have another being I can count on and trust my safety with is huge for me,” Ambrico-Custer said.

 The 23-year-old has limited eyesight and got her first guide dog at the age of 15 thanks to the nonprofit Guide Dog Foundation in Smithtown, Long Island.

“I’m able to travel so much more efficiently and faster and independently and I don’t have to be timid or afraid of where I’m going because I know that I can trust my pup to get me there safely,” Ambrico-Custer said.

The Guide Dog Foundation, which began in 1946, matches about 70 guide dogs each year to clients for no cost. All expense are covered thanks to charitable donations.

The foundation breeds their own dogs and puppies spend their first year in what they call a “puppy raiser's home” where they learn to socialize and are taught basic obedience. 

“A guide dog gives me a lot more independence and freedom and ability to navigate large crowds in larger cities,” said Lauren Berglund, whose guide dog, Sammy, has been her constant companion. 

To learn more about the Guide Dog Foundation or if you want to help, visit their website at www.guidedog.org