When asked how the guide dogs at America’s VetDogs have impacted his life, 90-year old Sy Lederman said, “They’ve kept me alive. That’s important.”
Lederman is legally blind and makes his way around Smithtown, where he lives, with the help of his trained poodle Merlot. The World War II veteran used to travel with a cane when he began losing his sight. However, one day in the early 1960s, a subway door closed on the cane and pulled it from his hands.
“That’s when I made up my mind,” Lederman said, adding that he got his first guide dog in 1963 when America’s VetDogs was one building, a living room and a dining room. It has since expanded to include residence halls, a puppy nursery and training facilities among other amenities.
Lederman shared his story with the East Meadow Chamber of Commerce at America’s Vet Dogs campus in Smithtown on April 12. For the past five years, the organization has been one of the beneficiaries of the Chamber’s biggest fundraiser of the year, Culinary Delights.
According to Rosemary Basmajian, a member of the Chamber of Commerce who coordinates Culinary Delights, Lederman and her father both served in the U.S. Army in World War II. Basmajian’s father was also legally blind like Lederman and the two were members of blind veterans’ group at Northport VA Medical Center. There, they became friends and, after her father died, Basmajian sought to help the organization that helped Lederman.
The April 12 event was Basmajian’s first time seeing the inside of America’s VetDogs and, she said, “I really had no idea how extensive it is.” With her fellow Chamber members, she saw the puppies in training and received a first-hand account of the services the agency provides.
The Chamber of Commerce invited America’s VetDogs to be a part of their Culinary Delights fundraiser again this year, which is set for Sep. 24.