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“Watch Out!”—GDB Service Animal Trainee Saves the Day

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Service dogs are trained to help "their people" through all kinds of everyday and surprising events. Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) trainee O'Neil, an 18-month-old yellow Labrador retriever, demonstrated his own awareness and communication skills under pressure, and helped to save lives.

On June 10, 2013, O'Neil, along with Guide Dogs for the Blind trainers Todd Jurek, Danielle Alvarado, Hanna Belyea, and Emily Crisp, was participating in a training exercise in downtown San Rafael, California. When the elderly driver of a car jumped the sidewalk attempting to parallel park, O'Neil was the first to notice. In video footage captured by a nearby security camera, footage that has since gone viral, O'Neil's head jerks as he notices the threat, alerting Training Supervisor Todd Jurek. Jurek's own swift reaction, hustling O'Neil and blindfolded Alvarado down a side street, protected them from harm as the car careened backwards down the sidewalk toward them. Belyea and Crisp, who were slightly behind the dog group observing the training exercise, were not captured on video but also rushed to safety.

Luckily, there were no injuries resulting from this accident. Acknowledging the heroic actions of the GDB employees, including O'Neil, San Rafael Mayor Gary Phillips declared June 10 "Guide Dogs for the Blind Instructor Day."

Dogs like O'Neil—service animals, animal athletes, and family pets—possess awareness, intelligence, and capability beyond what we can imagine, and continue to surprise us with their problem-solving and creativity.