Keith Bundy and Mercury
by Jim Price
Keith Bundy is one busy guy. Not only is he the assistant dean for student development at Dakota State University, which includes heading up the ADA program and overseeing the counseling center, he also teaches introduction to computers. He's the pastor at his church, an avid sports fan, and a motivational speaker. As if that weren't enough, Bundy is the public address announcer (using a spotter) for many of the local baseball games. It's almost hard to believe he's been totally blind since birth.
Recently Bundy, 54, was at the Oregon campus of Guide Dogs for the Blind to receive his third Guide Dog, Mercury, a calm, happy, 18-month-old black Lab. "I don't know how they did it," he said with one of his very broad smiles. "But they found me the perfect match. I've never bonded this quickly with one of my dogs. I keep telling them his halo is bound to slip one day, but it hasn't yet. It's only been a week and a half, but so far he has been absolutely wonderful."
Bundy's vision loss is from the under-development of the part of his brain that processes the signals from his eyes. "They call it congenital malformation of the brain," he said. Always quick to find the humor in things, he pointed out in his honey-smooth PA announcer voice, "The funny part is all four of my kids wear glasses but they all got their astigmatism from my wife, not from me, their totally blind father."
As a child in Indiana, his parents' doctor advised they not have any more children because of his blindness. The closest school for the blind, however, was hundreds of miles away and they were not about to give up their only child for the majority of the year. They did some checking and found a very progressive elementary school in a town 20 miles away. "For blind kids in kindergarten through third grade, they offered Braille, mobility and orientation, and life skills like how to count coins," he explained. "My mother found a job as a house cleaner in that town so she could afford to take me to school there every day."
He stayed at John M. Culver Elementary School in Evansville through eighth grade, and then was mainstreamed into the high school in his home town of Mt. Vernon, Indiana. He was the first blind student ever at the school, but he said overall it was a great experience. "My parents were a bit overprotective, so I didn't have too much of a social life, but they really pushed me academically and I ended up third in my class of more than 200 kids." That put him in good stead for an academic life that now includes two bachelor's degrees and one master's.
Bundy's first two dogs, Cocoa, a chocolate Lab, and Brandon, a black Lab, came from a guide dog school in Ohio. "This time I did some careful research and by my criteria, this school was the best one out there." He reached down to give Mercury a scratch behind one ear and grinned, "I'm sure glad I did."
He was impressed with GDB's life-long support services. And he liked the school's emphasis on traffic training, teaching the dogs how to handle themselves around cars, especially with the proliferation of the new electric models that put out so little noise. "Another big factor was that GDB sends out lecture material in advance, and you can keep it. If two years from now, for example, I've forgotten how to work a subway platform and I'm on my way to a conference in New York, I can pull out my Victor Reader Stream and review the recorded material, study it, and be on my way."
Bundy described himself as a good cane user. "But I much prefer a dog. Dogs enhance my mobility tremendously. With a dog, smooth is the word; smoothness and quickness." With his busy life, he needs that quickness and it seems Mercury is a dog that delivers.