by Paige Furlong
Paige Furlong is a freshmen at The Athenian School in Danville, California. Recently, all the freshmen were asked to give a speech titled "This I Believe".
I believe in Phoebe. I believe in her ability to change a life and I believe in my ability to change a life through her. I believe that through raising Phoebe for Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) that I have been able to give someone a more independent and fulfilling life.
Phoebe is my little 39 pound black Lab who I cuddled with, taught, learned from, and then sent on her way to her true place in life. Phoebe graduated in January from GDB with Rachel, an 18-year-old college student. Rachel is only 5' 1"; Phoebe is the smallest Lab ever to graduate from the program. Phoebe is Rachel’s guide; Rachel is Phoebe’s person.
I always knew that Phoebe was never mine and could never be. Of course, I loved her and was sad when my family had to give her back to GDB for training, but that sadness cannot compare to the happiness that I felt when Phoebe and Rachel graduated together.
The first time that my family met Rachel was on the day of their graduation. We were welcomed into the dining room on the GDB campus, and after waiting a while with the other graduating dog’s puppy raisers, we were escorted to Rachel’s dorm room. There they were, Rachel and Phoebe. I hadn’t seen Phoebe for months; she was still part of our family but she was Rachel’s now. Phoebe and Rachel were a perfect fit. Phoebe greeted my family with enthusiasm but when Rachel asked her, she sat right by her side and was working just as she was supposed to do. Within the next two hours Phoebe and Rachel had gotten up on the stage in front of the dorm and became an official working Guide Dog team. My little puppy is now fulfilling her purpose in life.
Rachel and Phoebe live in Massachusetts. My family recently got an email from Rachel thanking us for all we did for Phoebe. When Phoebe is not going to college with Rachel, she plays with the other dogs in the house and runs on a beach. They live right on the Atlantic Coast.
Phoebe is the greatest gift that I have ever given. Because of her I have touched Rachel’s life; because Phoebe gave Rachel freedom, I gave Rachel freedom.
Being visually impaired does not only affect that person, but the people they rely on for guidance. At GDB events puppy raisers have a chance to talk to people who are visually impaired, as well as their families: their parents, siblings, and spouses. These people tell us that they, too, have the freedom of mobility because they trust the dogs we raise to take care of their loved ones. They know that their loved ones are safe and can be independent because of our dogs.
I would never give up my experience raising Phoebe for anything. I believe that through her, I made a difference in Rachel’s life. I believe that I became a fuller person because of Phoebe. I believe in my power to make a difference because of Phoebe.