Written June 2016

Freedom Guide Dogs Benefit magic show


Leonard A. McHugh

April, 2016 was a very busy month for me. I not only was preparing to retire Toga my Freedom guide Dog but trying to put together a very large magic show. For the show I had to build a new magic table, purchase and practice new illusions promote the show and make an assistant table for my wife. In addition to the magic show preparation I was retiring Toga. For me and probably 99% of guide dog users find this to be a very difficult time. The bond between the handler and the guide dog can only be truly understood by other blind handlers. You develop a trust and love for the guide that is unexplainable. You have a mutual trust that this dog can make decisions that can keep you safe.

I was so fortunate to find a wonderful home for Toga. Dr. Mary is a veterinary ophthalmologist who has been giving free eye examines to guide and service dogs for about ten years. The first time that she met Toga, she told me that when toga retires she would like to adopt her. I think that she repeated that statement every year that she gave toga her eye exam. Dr. Mary has two children that really love toga as does her and her husband.

For the magic show it was a benefit show for both Freedom Guide Dogs and the Majestic Theater here in Pottsville. At the time I did not know of another venue that I could use for the magic shows. There were two one May 6th and the other May 7th. The proceeds were to be split between the Majestic and Freedom after a $50 clean up charge for each show was taken. To promote the show I made and distributed flyers had two radio interviews and a TV interview. The Tv interview can be viewed at: Blind Magician Supports Service Dogs

I am so very grateful to Thrivent Financial, They have anAction Team program where they gave me a $250 seed money prepaid visa card. This was to be used to purchase supplies for the magic show. I purchased the wood and materials for the magic table and a few new illusions.

The week before the shows I received my new Freedom Guide Dog, Otter. He is a 2 year old Black Lab. So for that week I did nothing but train and bond with Otter. Now Friday evening was the first magic show, it did not go as well as I had hoped. With all of the new illusions, mistakes did happen. For the Saturday evening show it was flawless. After the show I did receive one fantastic compliment. A man on the way out told me that he watched quite a few magicians. He told me that he thought that I was better than any sighted magician that he ever saw.

During the show I had Eric, the trainer from Freedom, keep Otter. I did not want to be upstaged by a dog. That had happened a few years ago during a motivational talk. When the show was over, Eric brought Otter back on stage to me. He did not even look back but made a bee-line directly to me and started to play. He was so excited to be back with me. My daughter and a friend sat with Eric during the performance. Otter would periodically start whining. When they asked him why, he responded that he hears me and wants to be close. Otter already had a very strong bond. I then had about a fifteen minute question and answer period about Otter and Freedom Guide Dogs.

During the preparation for the shows I learned that Boscovís department store has a very large auditorium that seats between 200 and 250 people. They offered it to me at no cost to do another benefit show for Freedom Guide Dogs. That way 100% of the proceeds would go to Freedom as opposed to splitting with the theater and paying two $50 clean up charges. So I will be doing a second show on June 25, 2016 and most likely a third show later in the summer. They even purchased a few supplies for me.

The Tuesday after the shows, the trainer from Freedom completed the training. Otter is doing so very well. I actually can see the best of my three previous dogs in him. That is a dream comes true! It still will take a few months for us to really become a great working team; it is going so very well.

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