MARIN, Calif. (KTVU) - The organization Guide Dogs for the Blind provides much needed assistance to the visually impaired across North America. But now, the Bay Area organization is in mourning after a staff member was killed in an accident while delivering those dogs.
The Guide Dogs facility is always buzzing with the activity of dog training. But that is only one part of the path that dogs have to walk before they can assist the visually impaired. "We deliver puppies all over to our puppy raisers," said Sarah Blevins, operations manager of canine community programs.
First, the puppies leave San Rafael to be raised and socialized by foster owners in ten western states. Lee Shenk was one of the people who delivered the puppies to their foster parents. "He was genuinely interested, he really loved people, loved the dogs. Took... just got a lot of joy out of everything he did," explained puppy raising and dog placement manager, Emily Brown.
But on Friday, he was killed while on a trip through the Pacific Northwest to deliver puppies. Lee and other workers were crossing an Oregon street on their dinner break when he was hit by a pick up truck. A co-worker was injured. "We're grateful of course that nobody else was hurt and that none of the dogs were involved, and things like that. But Lee will be greatly missed," said Brown.
Lee Shenk was a retired park ranger who worked in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and the transition to puppy truck driver was seamless. "From the second that I interviewed him, I knew that he was someone truly special. He had so much kindness and compassion," explained Blevins.
His job was to deliver adorable labrador puppies to families eager to serve as temporary owners. "So he really made that special," said Blevins.
Driver really may be the wrong description. Perhaps puppy truck Santa Clause is better. "Our puppy raisers don't know their puppies names, and then they get them off the truck, they learn their names then. So, he made every single puppy delivery special. He would come up with clues, and have people guess when they got off the truck," explained Blevins.
With condolences from hundreds of people inundating the Guide Dogs Facebook page, the organization has started the Lee Shenk Memorial Fund to help carry on his legacy.
The trip to drop off dogs had just begun. Lee had dropped of one and still had twelve to go. After the accident, volunteers and other workers stepped in in his name to finish the job, as they will from now on here in Marin.