BTBL & USPS Unveil Stamp as "Valentine" to Service Dogs
An overflow crowd, both human and canine, streamed into Dwight Hall on the 100-year-old Perkins School for the Blind campus on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012. On this Valentine’s Day afternoon, Perkins Braille & Talking Book Library sent a love message of an unusual sort to honor guide dogs and other service dogs, as well as the U.S. Postal Service that delivers audio and braille books to Library patrons. More than 100 Library users, guests, students and Perkins faculty packed the hall and listened with delight to stories about dogs that guide, comfort, and empower their owners – all of whom referred to themselves as “partners.”
“Dogs at Work” is the subject of a set of four new 65¢ U.S. Postage Stamps and Boston Postmaster James J. Holland came to Watertown for the official unveiling, the first such ceremony in New England for this issue. Holland said, “I can’t think of a better day than Valentine’s Day to show the actual love people have, and the partnership they have, with their dogs. So it’s great we decided to have this event on Valentine’s Day.”
Randy Price, co-anchor of WCVB-TV’s “Eye Opener” morning news program, emceed the gathering of Library patrons and friends. A dog enthusiast and breeder, Price was delighted to see more than 20 service dogs of various breeds in attendance. (He briefly nodded to cat lovers, as well, but noted “I’m a dog guy.”)
Kim Charlson, Director of Perkins Braille & Talking Book Library organized the event in conjunction with the Worcester Braille & Talking Book Library and officers of the Boston Post Office. In addition to honoring working dogs, the Library presented a plaque to recognize the indispensable role the USPS plays in making it possible, in her words, “for all to read.” Charlson said, “The Perkins Braille & Talking Book Library has a long tradition of working with the U.S. Postal Service. Every day, we send out 2,000 books from the library. And 2,000 books come back every day. If it wasn’t for the U.S. Postal Service, none of you would get those digital books and those players delivered right to your door. It’s always a pleasure to work with the Post Office, and we owe them so much.”
Charlson got her first guide dog just over 30 years ago. Dolly, who accompanied Charlson as she greeted visitors, is her fourth dog. Charlson has traveled to Hawaii, Alaska, and Europe with guide dogs, which she characterized as a challenge, a blessing and an adventure that would be impossible without a dog as her guide.
Library patron David Lynn, a U.S. Air Force veteran with his pilot dog Blazer spoke of the give and take between people and their service dogs, saying, “I’ve had people ask me how the dog finds me the particular product in a store that I’m looking for. I tell them, sadly enough, as smart as my dog is, he can’t read what kind of corn it is! Without my knowledge and the dog’s assistance, we don’t get anywhere. This is a partnership.”
And Anne DeFeo, a long-time user of Perkins services, summed up everyone’s impressions with the story of how, as age took her vision, she gained new insights thanks to Viv, her Guiding Eyes Dog, “At 70 years old, this grandmother took off for New York to get my guide dog. We’ve been together for almost three years, and we’ve become quite a team. We go everywhere together. She’s given me back my confidence and my independence, which I was losing. I just can’t say enough about my guide dog. I just love her. All I can say is, life is so good. And my dog helps keep it that way for me.”
Perkins students engaged in the “Canine Catering” vocational program bake, package, sell and distribute dog treats to a small clientele. For this occasion, they provided gift packs for all the dogs at the event – straight from the heart.
The Valentine's Day event generated buzz on local channels like WCVB-TV and also appeared in Boston's major newspapers.
Read coverage of the event in the Metro Section of the Boston Globe.
Also read about the "Dogs at Work" stamp unveiling in the Boston Herald.
For local coverage, read about the event in the WatertownPatch.