MANISTEE -- He is an eight-year outstanding
veteran of his profession, and his big brown eyes slowly surveyed
the room full of Onekama Elementary students with great interest on
Wednesday morning while his “boss” filled them in on what his
important duties were to help him lead a more productive life.
No, it wasn’t an employee listening to his employer talk. It was a
case of a 10-year-old German Shepherd Leader Dog named Ranger
listening to the voice of his master, Tom Silverthorn. Being vision
impaired put a challenge in Silverthorn’s life, but he has been able
to live a better life with the assistance of Ranger for the past
The gift of Ranger has made Silverthorn so appreciative of the
Leader Dog Program that for the past several years the former
Manistee County resident pays his own way back from his present home
in South Dakota every year to take part in the 4-H Leader Program in
the schools. It is something that Manistee County 4-H Program’s Deb
Laws said is priceless.
really a labor of love, as he pays for his own trip and hotel," said
Laws. "About the only thing we do for him is pay for a lunch. "Silverthorn
agrees that he wouldn't miss the program for anything, and looks
forward every year to showing the children all the thing that Ranger
does to assist him on a daily basis.
“In the past two years, I have paid
$2,000 of my own money to come up her, but it is worth it,” said
Laws, Silverthorn and several other people instrumental in the local
leader dog program have been making the rounds to the elementary
schools in the county to point out the importance of the program.
Wednesday’s inclement weather prevented several of the people
involved in the program from traveling to Onekama Schools, but Laws,
Silverthorn and Ranger were able to keep the program going.
“We are hanging in there, but one thing we are looking for right now
is Leader Dog puppy raisers,” said Laws. “We are not sure that the
ones we have doing it right now are going to do another one. They
have done five or six for us, so they want to take a little break.
If anyone is interested they should contact the extension office
(231-889-4277) to get an application.”
Laws said people who do raise the
puppies receive some assistance from the 4-H and the Leader Dog
program. “What we cover is basic expenses for the family, like dog
food and pet supplies,” said Laws. “Veterinary services are
negotiable because some of that is covered by leader dog,” said
Laws. “We realize they do that voluntarily, but help is out there
for things like dog food dishes, leashes and those types of things.
We just really need puppy raisers as there is a waiting list of
sight impaired people that are waiting for a dog and can’t get one
until more are trained.”