Bloomingdale man flooded with offers to help quiet guide dog

  • Tim Spencer

    Tim Spencer

 
 
Updated 1/6/2011 7:54 AM

Bloomingdale resident Tim Spencer said he's touched by the kindness of strangers and veterinarians who are stepping up to help combat complaints about his Seeing Eye dog.

Spencer, who lost his sight two years ago because of a rare eye cancer, is fighting charges of code violations and approximately $300 in fines from the condo association at 1 Bloomingdale Place. The group says his guide dog, Iggie, barks excessively, disturbing neighbors.

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After reading about Spencer and Iggie in Tuesday's Daily Herald, some suburban residents are sharing advice on how they've handled their own dogs' barking. Others offered to dog-sit while Spencer and his wife, Heather, take their 3-year-old son Andrew to appointments to treat his retinoblastoma, the same cancer that took Spencer's sight.

Even professionals like John Ciribassi, a board-certified veterinary behaviorist based in Carol Stream, are offering services at free or discounted rates to try to keep the peace between Iggie, the Spencers and the condo association.

Another woman contacted the Daily Herald to say she wanted to donate money anonymously to the family for Andrew's medical treatments.

"It makes me feel good," Spencer said. "You often think that you're alone and then you end up getting your story out there, and suddenly a stranger is willing to volunteer his time and energy."

Iggie joined the Spencers less than one month after they moved into 1 Bloomingdale Place in October, a building that normally forbids pets, but the condo board waived the rules for Iggie. Spencer said they chose the building because it is near Andrew's school and Heather's work, and it offers indoor parking and security cameras.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

When the family moved in, the association knew Spencer planned to travel to New York and graduate with Iggie from Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a group that trains guide dogs from birth.

But soon some complaints about Iggie's barking started piling up, along with fines. Spencer said many neighbors have been supportive and without compliant, but an attorney for the condo board said several residents are upset and the board suggests more training for Iggie.

The family faces an upcoming hearing to try to resolve the dispute.

Canine professionals like Brad Howe, a behavioral therapist and master trainer with Bark Busters, hopes offering their services will help reduce or eliminate the fines and stop future violations.

"I like to use my expertise to give back and do pro bono work when I can," Howe said. "I've saved dogs from being euthanized, saved some marriages ... and results like that are so rewarding."

Spencer said he welcomes the help and will use these new tools to discover if Iggie needs more training or if the complaints are, as he contends, unfounded or exaggerated.

"I've been through such a rough time, and you watch the news and read the paper and some of it is negative, but there really are a lot of good people out there," he said.