Living and Learning at Leader Dog

Dr. Smith is seated in front of an exam table with a sedated black lab laying on top. Across from his is Dr. Wilson, standing and maneuvering some equipment near the dog's face. Two women work at a counter nearby, one on a computer

Dear Patterson Foundation,

My name is Rebecca Coyle and I am a veterinary student from the University of Missouri. I recently spent two weeks at the Leader Dogs for the Blind campus and I had an absolutely amazing experience which was all made possible by you. As soon as I arrived on the LDB campus I realized I was in a very special place. I thought I had come to learn about veterinary medicine but this internship immediately became about so much more.

My first night in the LDB residence I was invited to eat with the residents. At my first dinner, I was nervous because I hadn’t interacted with many blind or visually impaired people before. My fears quickly subsided because the staff and residents were so friendly and so willing to talk about their experiences. By allowing me to live and interact with the residents daily, I was able to better understand both the challenges the residents faced and also the critical importance of the Leader Dogs for the Blind program within the community. As the weeks progressed I was able to better understand just how much the residents valued LDB. The program was helping them to become more independent and more confident in navigating their world. It was enabling some residents to do things that hadn’t done in years and it was wonderful to hear about their progress. I was also lucky enough to be present on the day the residents received their Leader Dogs. Their enthusiasm for the dogs and the freedom they represented was a blessing to see. As my visit continued I was also able to hear about how much these dogs were enhancing their lives.

In addition to the honor of getting to know the residents I had the immense pleasure of working with the veterinary staff. Dr. Smith and Dr. Wilson were amazing role-models for me during my visit. They taught me an incredible amount about veterinary medicine, surgery, & the importance of leading by example. They were both so passionate about providing the highest quality of care to the dogs that it seemed to permeate into everyone around them. In fact, everyone I interacted with from the dog care staff and receptionists to the puppy and breeding stock raisers seemed to realize how critically important they were in creating better lives not only for the dogs but also for the people they would one day come to help. To say that my time in the LDB veterinary hospital enhanced my veterinary education is an understatement. I have learned so much and have been so inspired by Dr. Smith and Dr. Wilson that it is hard to put into words… so I will simply say that I hope one day I will become half as good of a veterinarian as they are.

My time at Leader Dogs for the Blind was one of the most incredible and inspiring experiences of my life and it wouldn’t have been possible without you. Without your generous donation which allowed me to stay in the residence I would never have been able to afford coming to an internship so far away from home. I would not have had the honor of meeting the residents and so fully understanding the importance of the work done at LDB. My time at LDB has also significantly enhanced my veterinary learning and enriched my life in ways I would not have thought possible before.

I hope that after I graduate from veterinary school that I will one day be lucky enough to be a part of an organization that is as passionate and committed to excellence as LDB. This organization is simply miraculous and I am truly grateful for this experience. From the bottom of my heart I thank you for making this learning opportunity available to me. It is an experience that I will never forget.


Rebecca Coyle

Are you interested in a veterinary externship at Leader Dogs for the Blind? Contact our assistant director of canine health at 888-777-5332 or at


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