A philanthropist, Dorothy Harrison Eustis combined her love of animals and her passion for helping others to co-found the nation’s first dog guide school, The Seeing Eye.
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1886, Eustis was educated at the Agnes Irwin School and later at the Rathgowrie School in England. In 1906, she married Walter Abbott Wood and moved to New York. Together, with the state department of agriculture, they operated an experimental dairy farm. There, they demonstrated that selective breeding could increase the milk production and commercial value of dairy cattle. That work continued until 1917, two years after Wood’s death.
In 1921, Eustis relocated to Switzerland, where she began an experimental breeding kennel for dogs. She married George Morris Eustis in 1923, and at their estate, Fortunate Fields, they worked to breed and train German shepherds for civic duty. In 1927, Eustis discovered a school in Potsdam that taught dogs to serve as guides for blind war veterans. Impressed by the school’s work, Eustis wrote an article entitled The Seeing Eye, which ran in the November 5, 1927 edition of the Saturday Evening Post.
When a young, blind American man named Morris Frank read the article, he was inspired to write to Eustis and request a guide dog. Eustis agreed to help, bringing Frank to Switzerland and providing him with a dog. When Frank returned to the United States with his dog, they earned much publicity and received many inquiries from other blind people. Shortly after, Eustis moved back to the United States. In 1929, she and Frank established the nation’s first guide dog school, The Seeing Eye, to help make the world accessible to those who are blind or visually impaired.
Throughout her lifetime, Eustis devoted much of her fortune to The Seeing Eye; she served as the organization’s President until 1940 and Honorary President thereafter.