Friday, December 20, 2013

Alumni Connections: In Gratitude – The Gift of a Guide Dog

As the GDB Alumni Association Board, we want to take this opportunity to extend our warmest holiday wishes to each of you. Thank you to the incredible puppy raisers, the volunteers, the GDB staff, the donors and each of you who have contributed your time and resources to this organization. Because of you, we experience the gift of a guide dog: a beautiful partnership. We also are very grateful to our fellow alumni and wish you happy and safe travels this holiday. Thank you for your involvement in the Alumni Association, for inspiring us, and for sharing your stories with others who may also benefit from the gift of a guide dog. It has been such a honor to get to know more of you from our involvement in the Alumni Association.

Young yellow lab puppies sit in a basket as their mom looks on.

Becky Andrews & Cricket, Alumni Association Chair

As a young wife and mother, my world opened back up with possibilities on that first walk with my new guide, Pantera in 1997. My two amazing guides, Pantera and Cricket, have given me the beautiful gift of safe travels, confidence, independence, and much joy, love and laughter. The gift of a guide dog has also brought connections into my life too numerous to list … puppy raisers, fellow alumni, incredible GDB staff, so many friends, and all in the GDB family. You can follow our journeys at:  http://cruisinwithcricket.blogspot.com/

Theresa Stern & Dario, Alumni Association Director

It is difficult to express how much the partnerships I have shared with my three amazing guides, “Blossom”, “Astaire”, and “Dario”, have meant to me. They have all been so much more than a tool to help me get around. They have enriched my soul, and have touched everyone they have met in a special way. I have learned something important from each one of these dogs, “Blossom” taught me to be brave, “Astaire”, taught me to not take life too seriously, and “Dario”, the eternal optimist teaches me every day, to be persistent and keep hope alive. From the bottom of my heart I want to thank everyone who has made these partnerships possible, from the kennel staff who stayed up all night to make sure these pups were born healthy, to the volunteer puppy raisers, donors, trainers, and accountants who made sure the heating bills are paid on time, keeping the kennels warm at night (everyone forgets the accountants), and also a big thank you to my fellow alumni who serve to inspire me every day!
               
George Kerscher & Mikey, GDB Board Chair

As an infant Buster, a Black Lab, monitored my crib. When I was six, for Christmas my parents brought in a beautiful German Shepard puppy named Prince. Over the years dogs have always been a part of my life. I knew RP (Retinitis pigmentosa) would eventually take my sight, but I also wanted to wait until I really needed a guide dog. In 1999, at the age of 49, I went to GDB and received Nesbit my first wonderful guide. His Eulogy is at: http://kerscher.montana.com/Nesbit-Eulogy-V3.html
In 2008, I received Mikey, who is at my feet right now. It is just days before Christmas and I cannot help but recognize that GDB has given me two incredible gifts. I want to say thank you to everybody who makes this magic happen: the volunteers that do everything under the sun, the puppy raisers, the GDB staff, The Alumni Association Board, the GDB Board and of course our generous donors. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays and thank you for the furry gift who is now licking my face.

 
Melissa Hudson & Camry, Outreach Co-chair, Nominating Chair & Chapter Coordinator 

Guide Dogs for the Blind has given me the most beautiful gifts I've ever received - my three guide dogs: Anya, Zorro and Camry. They have each opened up my world, literally and figuratively and put a smile back on my face!  Cliché but true, it's a gift that keeps on giving...not only giving me independence, but also lifelong friendships with other GDB alumni, puppy raisers and GDB staff. I am so grateful and appreciative for all the gifts that I continually receive! Thank you my Guide Dogs for the Blind family!!  Follow Melissa and Camry’s journeys at: http://blindgirl.net/

Young Golden Retriever guide dog puppy wears the green puppy coat and sits inside of an empty harness.

Maile George & Jasmine, Outreach Co-chair
                                             
24/7 and 365 days a year, my gift is my guide dog, Jasmine. She’s the only one who can make me laugh just by being herself, and she always seems to be ready to play, to comfort, and to snuggle. Without fail, she enthusiastically guides me through anything, anywhere, and in any kind of weather, and she never calls in sick! Besides her expertise as a guide dog, which is pretty amazing in itself, Jasmine is also the first guide dog to be allowed to be cross-trained as a medical alert dog. I am grateful to Guide Dogs for the Blind for being open to conducting this experiment jointly with an organization called Dogs4Diabetics. Jasmine is now certified to warn me before my blood sugar drops dangerously low. Her selfless gift is my independence, my freedom from fear and a happy heart. I feel inadequate as I try to reciprocate by feeding her the right amount of quality food, providing healthy treats at appropriate times, including plenty of work and play in her daily activities, brushing her teeth, grooming her and visiting her vet when it’s necessary. Though I felt as though my life was over when I  became blind as a  result of diabetic retinopathy, I’m happy to say that ever since I picked up Egan’s harness that first time back in 1985, my life has been full. Jasmine is my fifth guide dog, so I guess I can say that guide dogs are the gifts that just keep on giving! I am so grateful for the gift of Egan, Acorn, Huntley, Flanders and Jasmine.

 
Michelle Miller & Tango, Alumni Association Secretary and Grad Call Coordinator

The Ambassador

The gift of a guide dog is so heartfelt and pure
To some bystanders the relationship may feel or look like a glittery blur
The Ambassador of happiness: Tango is his name
Nothing but unconditional love is what I can claim
Traveling together by boat, train, or hot air balloon
And as liberating as a butterfly leaving the safety of her cocoon
The bond we share is more precious than a gift
Daily we venture out never adrift
The Ambassador of Happiness both him and I
Share love and a bond larger than the sea or the sky!

Gary Norman & Pilot, Alumni Association Board Member

On behalf of Pilot, an active guide and Langer, who is retired; the Normans of Maryland, express Happy Holidays! The life of my family and the life of my extended family are deeply enriched by the guide dog life style. Among the many lessons and gifts they provide is that there is beauty and power in partnerships.

A Yellow Lab guide dog in harness sits next you a young Golden Retriver guide dog puppy wearing a green coat.

Samantha Adams & Lotto, Communications Committee Chair

I never wanted to be one of those blind people who were defined by her inability to see and I think I have succeeded in this desire; however, I think I am defined by my guides.  Having recently said farewell to my second retired guide, I had time to mourn and therefore consider the role of my guides in my life over the last 18 years. I have concluded that my guides have defined me. They complete me and add dimension and meaning to my life. They are and always will be a part of who I am. My guides were and continue to be my constant companion and confidant; they share the good, the bad and the ugly and they keep coming back for more. During this holiday season, take time to remember the guides of the past and celebrate all that they brought to your lives…then give your current guide an ear scratch and a snuggle to let them know how much they are loved. Happy Holidays to all and take time to remember what really matters.

Terry Christensen & Zane, Alumni Association Vice Chair

Recently, Zane and I traveled to Boston for the History of Science Society’s Annual Conference. Here again, thanks to our training together, Zane and I were able to travel independently from Philadelphia to Boston, then work our way from the Amtrak Station to the conference hotel. Navigating around the conference presented its own challenges. The subject area sessions were scattered on three different levels of the hotel with only fifteen minutes in between. Candidly, I cannot imagine getting around in a timely fashion if I had been following a white cane. Of course, successful navigation at a reasonable pace of travel is far from the whole story.
In the months between [my second guide] Dutton’s death and being partnered with Zane, I relearned how socially isolating a white cane can be. For one reason or another it seems that very few people are inclined to initiate a conversation with someone who they view as “disabled”. Here, it is important to keep the real purpose of these conferences in mind. The research presented at these events can easily (and efficiently) be disseminated by electronically. The real point of an academic conference is to bring together people who have similar research interests such that we might cross-pollinating each other’s thinking. If I speak with the thirty people or so that I already know, I will have gained nothing from the process and wasted a good deal of money. With Zane by my side however, I was able to productively engage with a number of new acquaintances.
All in all, it was another reminder how much having a guide empowers me. I came away from the conference with a reinvigorated sense of purpose. Many friends (old and new) commented on the value of my scholarship. Others encouraged me to keep going on my biography of the theoretical physicist John Archibald Wheeler. Having hit something of a snag, on this project, it was very important for me to have this sort of constructive feedback. The plain truth is that, without a guide dog, I would have never attempted the trip.    

A Yellow Lab guide dog shakes hands with her partner.

We wish you the happiest of holiday seasons and a blessed 2014!

For more information about the alumni association, please visit:  http://www.guidedogs.com/site/PageServer?pagename=about_people_alumni

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