When I first noticed dogs walking around a store I thought, that'd be so cool to take a dog everywhere. Little did I know just how much of a life changer it is to have a dog by your side. I started my life changing journey with Guide Dogs for the Blind, when we adopted Geoffrey, who ironically was originally from Guide Dogs but got career changed from Dogs for Diabetics. From that day forward, I eagerly awaited the day when I too would be able to raise a Guide Dog puppy,not only because these dogs save lives, but they change lives around us.
First, I want to give you an insight into my life and how Guide Dogs has forever changed me. I was adopted from Russia when I was less than a year old, since then I only knew my family, but something wasn't right. I was always a very shy kid and it took me a while to open up to people. Then on Monday, June 28th 2011, I reluctantly walked into Fry's Electronics for my first puppy club meeting. I sat down quietly and didn't say much, then Anne handed me Ernie. I immediately fell in love with the big goofball and felt as if his big brown eyes were saying "It's okay, we'll do this together." From that day on I felt like I could conquer the world with a dog by side. Now, Mondays are the highlight of my week because I get to see my second family, Placer 4for2 Guides. I have never felt so welcomed or loved from a group of people and I am honored to be able to be apart of it. One day that I will never forget, was Mother's Day 2013. It had been a rough day, then all of a sudden we heard the doorbell ring. I opened the door and my heart stopped. Sitting on the porch was a little yellow lab puppy with a big blue bow round his neck. My group leader then proceeded to say "Happy Mothers Day, you're going to be a mom!" Holding that little puppy in my hands, I knew that Alamo would not only change my life but many people to come.
After attending all five of my meetings, I immediately started the process of being allowed to bring dogs with me to school. I of course started with the principal, whom I scheduled a meeting with, brought brochures from Guide Dogs and received a few pointers from Anne. He decided that he wanted to meet one of the dogs that I would be bringing in. It just so happened that I was puppy sitting a dog for about two weeks, so I brought her to back to school night. She was a petite white lab female named Citrus. After receiving my class schedule, the principal walked up, I put Citrus in a sit and began talking with him. At the end of the conversation he complimented her behavior then proceeded to say that he would be glad to allow me to bring Guide dog puppies. After about 3 weeks in school, I was ready to bring my first dog. This was a big deal, because it was the first service dog in training that the school had experienced and also happened to be my first year there. I ended up bringing Joanna and the day went perfectly. That whole year I brought dogs to school and I became more and more social, with a furry companion by my side. At the end of my sophomore year of high school, a new chapter in my journey with Guide Dogs began, with my first Guide Dog puppy Alamo. Having already brought dogs in the previous year, I confirmed with the principal and was good to go. To my surprise, I noticed another Guide Dog puppy as I entered school, I introduced myself and asked what club they were apart of and what their dog's name was. Her name was Regal, and he went on to explain that because I brought dogs in last year, their family decided to raise a dog. At that moment I had no idea how one dog, could make such an impact on an entire community. One day I noticed that there was this girl in my class that moved out of the way every time I walked by and would constantly be looking at Alamo. I walked up to her, said hi, then proceeded to ask if she would like to pet him. She then responded, "Oh, that's nice but I am actually scared of dogs." So I replied, "Well there is nothing wrong with that, Alamo is a big goof who loves cuddles, so let me know if you ever want to pet him." She said "Okay, thanks!" Later that week she approached me and started asking questions about him. Happily I responded then she asked to pet him. I held his collar and face so she could just pet his back without Alamo trying to say hi. This continued throughout the school year till the last day of school, she walked up, hugged Alamo and thanked me for changing her whole view on dogs and taking the time to talk to her. I couldn't help but smile as I looked down at Alamo, realizing how much impact we have had on people's lives and I felt so lucky to be on the other end of the leash.
Ever since I was a little kid, I always had a dog by my side, whether it be a stuffed animal or our golden retriever. Maggie, our golden retriever, would never leave my side. So I thought I was a hot shot, with my big dog protecting me, so we would go on adventures in the yard. Anytime we went to the store, I went straight to the toy aisle and found the Veterinary kits. Almost every halloween I would dress up in my vet outfit and have Maggie be my patient. From there my fascination with Veterinary work only grew. When I started puppy sitting for Guide Dogs that's when I knew for sure I wanted a career that involved working with dogs. I started looking at different career paths and I recently decided that I want to become a certified Veterinary Technician, then study Canine Rehabilitation. Without having these amazing dogs right by my side, I am not even sure I would have chosen to pursue a Veterinary career.
During my journey with Guide Dogs for the Blind, I look back and cherish all the lives we have touched. My family and I were at the Guide Dogs San Rafael Fun Day, two years ago, and I got a call from Anne saying "Hurry down to the venders, there is someone I want you to meet." By this time, Geoffrey had been apart of our lives for almost three years now and we always wondered who his puppy raisers were. I had no idea that within a few minutes that unknown would become very clear. My family and I walked down to the vendor area and I saw Anne and this couple standing there with tears in their eyes. I was confused at first, the Anne said, "These are Geoffrey's puppy raisers." I immediately started getting tears of overwhelming joy in my eyes, I finally got to meet the people who gave me my best friend. We spent about an hour talking about Geoffrey, exchanging pictures, and expressing our gratitude towards them. Since then they have visited our house and we keep in touch via email. I had big hopes for my first Guide dog Puppy, Alamo, but unfortunately he was career changed for luxating patella. He is now living the life of luxury and will be getting trained to assist in marital counseling. I am lucky enough to stay in contact with his new family and have become good friends in the process. Although Alamo could not be a Guide Dog, he definitely has changed many lives and will continue to. Guide Dogs has provided me with life long friendships that I can cherish for the rest of my life, and for that I am forever grateful.