Local vet loses second chance at guide dog

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Yeager

SANDPOINT — Bill Yeager, a disabled Sandpoint veteran, again lost his chance at a guide dog last month due to walking conditions in the Ridley Village Road area.

Yeager lost his eyesight and has difficulty communicating following a stroke, so Cecelia and Don Myers began advocating for Yeager to obtain a service dog about a year ago.

Last month, the couple told the Daily Bee they had "high hopes" when Yeager got a second chance after the first guide dog was taken back by its trainer in April because of unrestrained dogs in the neighborhood. Each day when Yeager, the dog and the trainer walked along Ridley Village Road toward the Sandpoint-Dover walking path, unrestrained dogs from neighboring homes charged at the trio. The trainer considered the loose dogs be a safety concern and took the dog back to California with him at the end of the trial period.

In January, Cecelia and Don Myers said the company bringing the second dog for a trial run was aware of what happened with the previous service animal and agreed that not all situations are perfect. So it was with dismay that, during last week's Sandpoint City Council meeting, Don Myers announced that the guide dog had again been taken away by the trainer after the trial period.

Myers spoke up during the meeting because Bruce Robertson, the city's right of way inspector, and Councilman Bob Camp asked council to consider the installation of rectangular rapid flashing beacons in two areas of the city, including ovne at Ridley Village Road and Highway 2. Myers said part of the reason the trainer decided not to leave the dog with Yeager was because there is no safe crossing to the Sandpoint-Dover path on the opposite side of the highway.

"They will not let a service animal cross a highway without some kind of light, so in order for him to have his service dog get to a light, that would probably be at Division," Myers said.

Myers said sidewalks are another issue — there are no sidewalks for Yeager to get the dog to the flashing beacon at Ontario Street and Highway 2 or Division Street. He said a sidewalk is needed along Ridley Village Road as well.

"All those people that are handicapped have to walk in the street," Myers said. "And in order for Bill to get a dog at his location — those dogs are trained to walk down a sidewalk and get to a curb — there is no availability for him to either walk down that street or to get to Division or to get to Ontario, so it's an issue for all of the handicapped people who live in Ridley Village."

The proposal also included installation of a flashing beacon at the intersection of Poplar Street and Fifth Avenue. Robertson said the issue was discussed in 2010 but was determined not feasible at the time because of how the median would need to be constructed to accommodate bus traffic.

City Council voted to send the proposals to the city's pedestrian and bicycle advisory committee for further recommendations and prioritization.

City administrator Jennifer Stapleton said an option the committee might look at is, rather than putting in a flashing beacon at Ridley Village, installing a connecting sidewalk to the flashing beacon at Ontario.

Mary Malone can be reached by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee

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