Addie also visited schools around

the state to educate people about

guide dogs.

BETHEL – Addie was too young to die. She had worked hard for the past few years, providing the eyes for her owner, Lynn Mason-Courtney.

But two attacks by unleashed dogs caused the early death of the 48-pound yellow lab who worked as a guide dog for Mason-Courtney for the past four years.

“She would have been six this year,” said Mason-Courtney who has lost most of her sight over the past few years due to macular degeneration and detached retinas. “Addie was at the height of her career.”

On May 2, Addie had to be put down by the local veterinarian. The injuries to her back, caused by two separate attacks by neighborhood Rottweilers, were very painful, particularly since the seeing-eye dog must wear a harness to guide her human partner.

Addie was Mason-Courtney’s first guide dog.

The first attack came in April of 2001 when Addie and Mason-Courtney were walking down Vernon Street.

“A Rottweiler came running across the lawn and across the street and picked up Addie by the scruff of the neck and knocked me down. It picked up Addie again and each time she landed on her back. The owner was standing by the house and called the Rottweiler but it wouldn’t come. Another man then pulled the Rottweiler off Addie,” said Mason-Courtney. “I knew Addie was hurt. I’ll never forget the sound of Addie screaming.”

Those were the first injuries sustained by Addie. Mason-Courtney, too, suffered hand injuries that required surgery.

Just as Addie was well along in her recuperation in November, a second attack happened.

This time, said Mason-Courtney, the two were walking down Church Street when another Rottweiler came running toward them.

“It grabbed her by the neck. The tenant/owner from the house managed to get him off Addie,” she said.

But more damage had been done.

Besides the physical injuries, Addie developed a fear of black dogs, something a seeing-eye dog should not have. The people from Guide Dogs for the Blind, based in California, came out to Bethel, said Mason-Courtney, to work with the yellow lab.

“The second attack exacerbated her injuries, and guide dogs can’t be afraid of anything,” she said. “She recuperated but was never right. The harness bothered her and she had trouble going up and down stairs.”

Between the two attacks, Mason-Courtney testified in Augusta about the importance of strengthening dog leash laws, and although she says they have been improved, there is still a ways to go.

Like better enforcement of laws calling for dogs to be under control by their owners and restitution for injuries as a result of dog attacks.

“Loose dogs create hell for dogs at home, although there is far less of this now than when all this started. I want people to be responsible dog owners, to hitch their dogs, for everyone’s safety, including the dog’s,” she said.

Addie, as well as being a guide dog for Mason-Courtney, was also used to educate people about guide dogs. She visited schools in Bethel and around the state. A Bridgton middle school class even made a video of her, said Mason-Courtney.

“She was well-known and well-loved in Bethel,” she said.

And she was all-important to Mason-Courtney, a former guidance counselor and social worker.

“Addie changed my life. The difference between walking along with a cane and walking out of the house with your shoulders back with a dog that knows if a sidewalk is broken, gives you back so much confidence,” she said.

Putting Addie down, said Mason-Courtney, was like losing an arm or a leg. “She was my eyes, she wasn’t just a pet,” she said.

Next month, Mason-Courtney flies off the California to the Guide Dogs for the Blind to meet a replacement for Addie and to be trained with the new dog.

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