“I have been a Fidelco guide dog user for 30 of Fidelco’s 60 years. I am so grateful for the series of six dogs who have guided me day after day while raising my daughters, developing my clinical social work career, traveling with my husband and family and just living my life, which has been so greatly enhanced by my partnerships with my Fidelco dogs. Many thanks to all the trainers and staff at Fidelco!”
Our founders, Roberta and Charles Kaman, shared a love for the German Shepherd Dog that launched the creation of the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation sixty years ago.
Charlie Kaman, founder and CEO of the Kaman Corporation was a remarkable engineering innovator. He developed the world’s first helicopter powered by gas turbines and invented the Ovation guitar – an acoustic guitar using aerospace composite materials.
With this same spirit of innovation, Charlie and Robbie began looking for ways to create ideal guide dog partners to enhance the lives of people who are blind.
At their home, Robbie and Charlie began breeding German Shepherd Dogs from German bloodlines and founded the Fidelity Breeders Cooperative. Dogs were bred for stamina, health and intelligence, and were given to other guide dog organizations for training and placement from 1960 – 1980.
In 1981, the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation was formally established as a breeding and training organization. The first five Fidelco guide dogs were placed using the In-Community Placement model Fidelco would come to be known for. This model provides for training the client with the guide dog in the environment where the client lives and works. This enhances the effectiveness of the partnership.
Today, Fidelco Guide Dogs is a recognized leader in the guide dog industry and still the only guide dog organization to exclusively breed the German Shepherd Dog. More than 1,500 guide dogs have been placed throughout North America.
As we celebrate our 60th anniversary this year, we are honored to continue Robbie and Charlie’s legacy of transforming the lives of people who are blind.
1960 - Fidelity Breeders Cooperative is founded; Fidelco German Shepherd guide dogs are provided to existing guide dog organizations for training and placement with people who are blind or visually impaired. Improving the breed known for stamina, work ethic and intelligence is a core priority.
1981 - Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation, Inc. is formally established as a guide dog breeding and training organization, and the first five Fidelco German Shepherd guide dogs are placed with clients.
1991 - Fidelco undergoes a major expansion to accommodate demand for the organization’s highly skilled German Shepherd Dogs. Thousands of square feet are added to the kennel, administrative, and training areas.
1996 - Fidelco establishes its Apprentice Training Program, a rigorous three-year program in which apprentices train a minimum of 24 dogs before becoming certified Trainer/Instructors.
2000- The first international guide dog placement is made with a client in Canada.
2001 - Five Fidelco German Shepherd Dogs— “Logan,” “Hero,” “Zubin,” “Ira,” and “Fergus”—assist the Connecticut Police Canine Training Unit in a search and rescue mission over an 11-day period at the World Trade Center site.
Fidelco client Erik W. became the first person who is blind to reach the summit of Mount Everest.
2006 - Fidelco places its 1,000th guide dog.
2007 – Fidelco client John P. becomes the first practicing Registered Nurse in Rhode Island.
2012 – Fidelco client Brad S. wins two gold medals and one silver medal in swimming at the Summer Paralympics in London on the one-year anniversary of the day he was injured in an Explosive Ordnance Device blast while serving in the U.S. Navy.
2013 – Fidelco client Janet L. is nominated by President Obama to be the next rehabilitation services administration commissioner.
2014 – Fidelco client Lynn M. climbs Mt. Katahdin.
2016 - Fidelco opens a training center and administrative office in Wilton, CT through a generous grant from the Norma F. Pfriem Foundation.
Fidelco client Brad S. competes in his second Paralympics and wins three gold medals and one silver in swimming.
2017 - Fidelco client Amy D. becomes the first female athlete who is blind to compete in an XTERRA race.
2020 – Fidelco celebrates its 60th anniversary.
Fidelco staff member and puppy raiser Pamela Bock raises her 40th guide dog for the organization.