Linda and Charlie Britton

Linda and Charlie Britton

Prairie Cottage residents and long-time dog lovers, Linda and Charlie Britton weren’t sure if they wanted the commitment of another pet. Then friends from church and Linda’s quilt guild introduced them to Leader Dogs for the Blind. This nonprofit guide dog program was founded in 1939 by three Detroit-area Lions Club members. The Brittons were excited about the program and wanted to help. Today, Linda and Charlie are training their fourth leader dog, a yellow lab named Journey, to provide service for a blind or visually-impaired person.

As “puppy raisers”, the couple is responsible for housebreaking the puppy, teaching good manners and basic obedience, and socializing the dog. Charlie says, “We expose the dog to many kinds of situations and settings, including taking Journey to church, shopping, and dining out.”

“A blind person has to rely on the dog to complete a command the first time,” explains Linda. “The dog needs to make good decisions for that person.”

Shortly after the Brittons moved to UMRC’s Prairie Cottages on the Chelsea Retirement Community campus, they decided it was time to take on a new Leader Dog puppy. In the meantime, their third dog, Ember, was “career changed” and came back to them as her forever family. “In two days, we went from no dogs to two dogs,” says Charlie. “It’s been a good thing, though. Journey learns from Ember.”

Linda and Charlie believe training a Leader Dog keeps them active and healthy, as well as offers social opportunities. “We automatically have something to talk about with people,” says Linda.

In August, the Brittons will return Journey to the Leader Dog organization to complete further training in order to be placed with a client. “You have to be prepared to give your dog up after a year,” says the couple, whose first two Leader Dogs are now helping clients in Texas and Costa Rica. “But, it is very rewarding and heartwarming when you get to meet the client with the dog you have helped train,” says Linda. “The dog really belongs to that person.”

United Methodist Retirement Communities welcomes dogs! To learn more UMRC’s new Prairie Cottages, visit

To learn more about Leader Dogs for the Blind, visit