Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Changing Lives, One Dog at a Time

A black Lab Guide Dog
Submitted by Robin Schneider

I first met Brandon when he was in the 7th grade. He was a reserved, quiet boy – tall and lanky. He sat in his seat quietly, did all of his work, and looked pretty bored most of the time.  

I had returned to my job as a Special Education Instructional Assistant at A.E. Wright Middle School in Calabasas, Calif., after getting my first Guide Dog, Evita, a  black Lab. Brandon and Evita became instant friends, and I do mean FRIENDS. When Evita is in the same room with Brandon, I know it immediately because her attention is on him and her tail is wagging, non-stop. Brandon knows not to touch her with her harness on, but she can’t control herself. She is not this way with any other students. I usually take off her harness and let her and Brandon have a love fest. 

I recognized the need to educate the 900 students at school regarding proper guide dog etiquette, so I targeted the 6th graders. I visited each classroom and told the kids how I suddenly lost my vision, and eventually found myself with a Guide Dog. Then I asked if they would donate to GDB. 

I began taking some of the Special Education students with me to help, including Brandon. After a short time, I asked him to do the pitch for pennies. He loved it, and each morning, he would greet me, asking “Which class are we visiting today?”  Last year we raised over $1,100 and this year $450.  

I know for certain that Evita has added something significant to Brandon’s life; I only wish it were more. Brandon wrote the following poem in May 2009:

We Are All Equal

I want to feel normal
I want to be a normal kid at school
But that isn’t possible
When I’m treated like a fool

This is the way God made me; I can’t help how I am
We’re not all that different from all the other boys and girls
But we can’t feel normal because of them
We’re all the same, just like the other boys and girls

I want to be in class without being stared at
Nor baring the fact that everyone around me is regular, while I’m the special kid
Can I be accepted by kids and not stepped on like a mat?
I want everyone to talk to and treat me like a normal person, not like that special kid

Kids feel sorry for a kid in a wheelchair
But kids who have lower functioning brains get treated like they’re animals
The thought about it just doesn’t seem fair
We are not animals, but just have some communication problems, but we’re just like everybody else

I want to be comfortable with my environment
I don’t want to be hit, with kids making a bid
It’s what’s on the inside that matters, not what we do, nor what we look like
I want everyone to talk to and treat me like a normal person, not like that special kid

From Brandon:
I really enjoyed helping out Guide Dogs for the Blind for the past two years and I only wish I could do it more. Mrs. Schneider is a very intelligent woman and is very lucky to have a dog like Evita. Evita is a very gentle and fun-loving puppy. I remember when I first saw her. I will miss them both, and hopefully will see them over the summer. I am truly fond of them. 

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