Table of Contents

Document Sample
Table of Contents Powered By Docstoc
					Stories Of Second Sight

Profiling Graduates of the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind Inc.®

Table of Contents

Introduction   3

Sead Bekric Hope In The Face Of Tragedy      4

Michael Conway Free-Falling To Freedom       6

Barry Dalrymple The Joys Of A Choice Well-Made 8

Peggy Eason Big Success In The Big Apple 10

Bobbie Mezei Experience Is The Best Teacher         12

Jackie Mushington Building Speed On The Road Of Life       14

John Ostlund The Assurance of ―Blind Trust‖         16

Sheila Schneider Long-Awaited Access To The World          18

Samantha Thomas ―I Owe This Dog My Life‖            20

Mark Titus The Pride Of The Road Well Traveled      22

About the Guide Dog Foundation       24

                                           Summer 2000

        In my more than 10 years at the Guide Dog Foundation, two questions about the
Foundation‘s programs and services have stood out as the most commonly asked: What
kinds of people use guide dogs?
How does a guide dog make someone‘s life easier?
        The answers are simple and complex at the same time. There is no typical profile
for a guide dog user; we serve men and women, from teen-agers to senior citizens, from
city dwellers to country folks, from homemakers to politicians. To answer the second
question, the dogs improve
our consumers‘ lives by providing people who are blind or visually impaired with
increased mobility and independence.
        But these answers cover just the tip of the iceberg. Our consumers cannot, and
should not, be summed up so simply. Their life experiences are so rich and unique that
hearing their stories can make a sighted person view his or her own life in a new light.
Our graduates‘ determination to follow their dreams — no matter their personal
circumstances — is nothing short of inspirational.
        We serve people who have never seen the colors of a flower or a smile on
someone‘s face, yet perceive beauty all around them. We serve people whose lives have
been turned upside down from loss of sight during adulthood, and they have turned that
challenge into success stories strong enough to be motivational even to strangers. We
serve people who thrive despite an impairment that is unthinkable to most sighted people.
        As we embark on a building project to expand our campus, the Guide Dog
Foundation for the Blind has compiled this series of profiles to introduce you to some of
the remarkable individuals we serve. By increasing our abilities to breed the highest
quality dogs and train more ―teams,‖ we can provide the gift of ―Second Sight‖ to more
people than ever before. I hope this cross-section of our consumers gives you a better
understanding of why guide dogs are so valuable to so many important people.

                                            Wells B. Jones, CAE, CFRE
                                            Chief Executive Officer

Hope In the Face of Tragedy

―It is excellent that the Foundation is expanding its campus. It will be wonderful to have
more room to spend with the dog and to relax during the training program. The new patio
will be wonderful.‖

Name: Sead Bekric
Srebrenica, Bosnia;
now Newport Beach, CA
Blind since:
15 years old,
innocent victim of Bosnian war
Age: 22
College student at Fullerton College
Current guide dog:
Franklin, a 4-year-old black Labrador

Most young people in America today cannot imagine what their lives would be like if
they were living in a
war-torn nation, nor could they imagine what their lives would be like if suddenly their
ability to see was taken away.
         Sead Bekric, from Srebrenica, Bosnia, unfortunately knows what both are like.
But in the midst of tragedy, hope greeted him.
         In Srebrenica, the war had kept the schools closed for three years. Sead, then 15
years old, spent his days obtaining food for his family and making sure they were safe.
One afternoon, during an innocent soccer game, Serbian tanks fired at the field. Most
people on the field were killed or wounded. Sead survived the initial massacre, but while
aiding the wounded, he was hit in the cheek with a shell. His left eye was completely
shattered and his right was severely injured.
         Sead‘s only hope for survival was a long journey to a hospital far away from his
family. Living through the war was difficult enough for his mother and young brother;
his absence would make it all the more tough to bear. Knowing that they would face
hardship if he left home, Sead refused to travel to the hospital and insisted on staying in
         A CNN cameraman captured Sead‘s plight on film, and it was broadcast
internationally to millions of viewers –one of whom was Californian Claire Maglica.
Claire contacted a relief agency and saw to it that Sead – and his family – were brought to
the U.S. so Sead could undergo treatment and escape the turmoil of his homeland. The
Maglicas covered all of the expenses.
         Although Sead gained freedom from the war, he lost the one thing he thought he
needed to enjoy that freedom: his vision. The Maglicas saw the frustration Sead
experienced when he learned he would never see again. ―When I learned
I was totally blind,‖ Sead recalls, ―I felt hopeless. I was sure I would never be
independent again.‖
         And so the Maglicas set Sead on a course to make the most of his life. He enrolled
in a high school that had an excellent program for the blind, took courses in mobility
training and learned Braille. He enrolled at the Guide Dog Foundation, where he trained
with a guide dog and gained back his lost independence.
         ―For the first time, I was independent,‖ Sead said after his graduation from the
Guide Dog Foundation. ―I knew then that everything I was able to do before, with sight, I
still could do, without sight.‖
         Now 22 years old and a student at college, Sead gets about with Franklin, which
he received, free, from the Guide Dog Foundation. Sead‘s life is full of light and
opportunities. He plans to work toward a law degree. He skis and rock climbs. He
practices karate.
And he enjoys his freedom.

―I was in a huge underground parking lot in Los Angeles. When we were about to leave
the curb, I told my dog to go forward. He refused, and I didn‘t understand why. It turned
out a person in a car just to the right of me had turned the lights to his car on. I didn‘t
know there was a car there because I didn‘t hear the engine running. The dog knew
something was going on because he saw the lights. All of a sudden, the driver turned on
the ignition and backed up. The dog didn‘t move until the car passed by. He knew that it
wasn‘t safe.‖

Free-Falling To Freedom

―I think of the three-and-a-half weeks that I spent at the Foundation as the time that I
started my life.‖

Name: Michael Conway
Massapequa, NY
Blind since:
Age 22, due to complications
from diabetes
Age: 41
Charter Financial Consultant at Conway,
Langley and Associates,
a branch of American Express
Current guide dog:
Rocket, a 12-year-old black Labrador

Jumping out of an airplane at more than 12,000 feet is quite a daring experience for any
person. But it‘s a little more challenging when you are blind.
        Michael Conway can attest to that. He has been blind for most of his adult life,
and during that period he has jumped out of an airplane more than 40 times.
He even received an award from the U.S. Parachutists Association for a four-point
sequential dive.
        What made his first jump so poignant for Michael is his belief that he couldn‘t
have done it without his guide dog. (Rest assured, the dog didn‘t jump out of the plane.
―He would wait patiently on the ground,‖ Michael laughs.) Tessie gave him the
confidence and security to be able to travel several hundred miles by himself to the only
skydiving center that would work with a blind person.
        ―It was outstanding to me that I could travel solo in the first place,‖ Michael says.
―When I was free-falling, it was amazing that I had the freedom and mobility to have
such an adventure in my life, even though I was blind.‖
        Michael lost his sight when he was just 22 years old. He was undergoing a series
of treatments to address his diminishing vision, the result of diabetes. After one surgical
procedure, he woke up blind.
―I was devastated. It just destroyed my goals and aspirations,‖ Michael recalls.
        Thanks to his passion for life and
an amazing support circle of family and friends, Michael was able to tackle this challenge
head on. He enrolled in a school for the blind, learned Braille, and came to the Guide
Dog Foundation to train with
a guide dog.
        He was so enthusiastic and motivated about his future with a guide dog that he
embarked on a 100-day fund-raiser, leading a hiking group along the Appalachian Trail
from New Jersey to Maine, to benefit the Foundation. ―Many people stepped to the plate
when I lost my sight and offered to help me,‖ Michael says. ―I want to be able to give
something back.‖
        Today, Michael is a financial consultant, motivational speaker, and member of the
Guide Dog Foundation‘s board of directors. He gives lectures for civic clubs about
disability awareness; he talks with high school students about the importance of setting
goals; and he writes articles for magazines about his experiences.
        Michael‘s perspective on life can best be expressed through his love of vegetable
gardening. ―I can reflect on the changes of the life cycle. Changes don‘t necessarily
mean the end of things, just that things will be different.
        ―I think of the three-and-a-half weeks that I spent at the Foundation as
the time that I started my life,‖ he says.
        For Michael, having a guide dog has enabled him to live an active, confident and
exhilarating life despite his blindness. ―I can still participate in a high-speed sport and
have feelings of freedom in where I am and what I am doing,‖ he says. ―That is what I
feel when walking with my guide dog, although it‘s not at the same speed as
a free fall.‖

While attending college and walking across the campus, his dog stopped walking.
Michael twice gave the command to go forward, and twice the dog refused. Michael
proceeded on his own, and took one step. He landed in wet cement. ―From that moment,
I knew to always trust the dog,‖ Michael says.

The Joys Of A Choice Well-Made

―It is great that more people will be able to be served during the year with the same
homestyle approach of smaller classes. The Foundation still will be like a home away
from home.‖

Name: Barry Dalrymple
Toronto, Canada
Blind since:
Age 23, due to diabetes
Age: 39
Rehabilitation teacher at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind
Current guide dog:
Branwen, a 5-year-old female
black Labrador

I t didn‘t take Barry Dalrymple very long to appreciate his first guide dog. Barry lost his
vision just after he graduated from college. When he was working with an orientation
and mobility expert to adjust to life as a blind person, a guide dog was the first thing he
thought of.
        It was the right decision for him. ―I didn‘t like using my cane,‖ he recalls.
―I was comfortable as soon as I had the dog. I felt him weaving around all sorts of
things, and it was wonderful to be walking at a normal pace. I couldn‘t
go that fast safely with a cane.‖
        When he returned to Canada from his training at the Foundation‘s campus in
Smithtown, Barry signed on with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind as a
rehabilitation teacher. There, he teaches daily living skills, Braille, typing and
keyboarding. Many of the students he works with are newly blind; they range in age
from teen-agers to senior citizens.
        ―I get a lot of questions from my students about working with a guide dog,‖ says
Barry, who has had three dogs from the Foundation. ―About half of the younger students
have gone on to get a guide dog at one point or another. For the older students, a guide
dog isn‘t always ideal.‖
        But working with a guide is the way to go for Barry, because they provide
mobility, independence, and even laughter. Barry laughs when he recalls his dog‘s sharp
memory. ―About five years after I moved from my apartment, I went back for a walk in
my old neighborhood. My guide dog automatically stopped at the bus stop where we
used to wait for the bus on my way into
work each day. She knew exactly
where she was.‖
        The seamless diversion around obstacles is one of the great benefits that Barry
gets from working with a guide dog. First, his dog confidently guides him around objects
and potholes along his route; for Barry, this is much safer, quicker, and easier than u sing
a cane.
        ―I get around a lot quicker with a guide dog, and that brings me a greater feeling
of freedom than I got with a cane,‖ Barry says. ―Now, half the time I don't even realize
that there are obstacles in the road; my guide dog simply takes me down the safest path.‖

―One morning when I left my house for work, the dog refused to walk down the
sidewalk. She wouldn‘t move at my commands to go forward. Finally, she took me off
the sidewalk and continued. Then, she moved back to the sidewalk. I later learned that a
patch of the sidewalk had been removed, and there was a hole about a foot and a half
deep. There was no barricade up. The dog had led me around the hole so that we didn‘t
get hurt.‖
Big Success In The Big Apple

―The single rooms and private baths will be a
. When you have a roommate, you don't want to disturb them; single rooms are more
relaxing. I'll sleep better, and I'll be better prepared for the walks during training.‖

Name: Peggy Eason
New York City, NY
Blind since:
Birth. Due to her premature birth, her optic nerve never developed
Age: 53
Social worker, professional singer, and keyboard specialist
Current guide dog:
Autumn, a 2-year-old female Golden Retriever

Those who think blindness is a debilitating impairment have never met Peggy Eason.
This New York City native is nothing short of a go-getter, and the fact that she has been
blind since birth has never prevented her from achieving her goals. Up to this point in
her life, she has accomplished more than many people ever dream to do. And she‘s not
done yet.
         For starters, Peggy has three college degrees – a bachelor‘s in voice from the
Manhattan School of Music; a master‘s in voice and music education, also from the
Manhattan School; and a master‘s in social work from Hunter College.
In addition to her ―day job‖ as a keyboard specialist at the New York State Department of
Parole, Peggy is a social worker with a private practice
in grief counseling, and she is a professional singer working on a CD.
         Peggy trained with her first guide dog when she was 28 years old. She had been a
reluctant cane traveler; she carried her cane to identify her as blind, but she often didn‘t
use it because she was frustrated by the slow pace she had to walk with it. With her
spatial vision, she could sense objects — but she still bumped into them.
         ―Once I worked with a guide, I was amazed at the difference,‖ Peggy says. ―I
didn‘t have to count my steps anymore or look out for obstacles.
         ―Where I live in Manhattan is a big challenge because there aren‘t traffic lights on
every corner,‖ Peggy continues, ―and a lot of people in my neighborhood don‘t speak
English. It is difficult for me to ask for help. But my dog and I bonded right away, and
she has proven herself. She handles the city noises well, and I am able to trust her
         Peggy‘s confidence in her guide dog means that she can do more things, and go
more places, quickly and independently. And for a woman on the go in such a large and
fast-paced city, that is very important. ―With my guide dog, I can go for a walk in the
park without fear,‖ she says. ―I feel more safe and more secure when I travel with my
guide. Now, there‘s no place that I won‘t go — all thanks to my guide dog.‖
―We were walking in the city, and all of a sudden, the dog stopped. I gave the command
to go forward again, and she sat down. I didn‘t know what the problem was, so I
investigated. I couldn‘t find anything that would give her reason to sit down. Then a
man from across the street runs over to tell me that a manhole cover was off not too far
from where I was standing. It wasn‘t close enough for me to feel it, but the dog knew it
was close and going to be a danger.‖

Experience Is The Best Teacher

―It is very exciting that there is such growth at the Foundation. It is great that there will
be more areas for recreation for when we are on a break from the training schedule.‖

Name: Bobbie Mezei
Clarksville, TN
Blind since:
11 years old, due to a brain tumor
Age: 24
Current guide dog:
Tyler, a 6-year-old male
yellow Labrador

When Bobbie Mezei lost her vision at age 11, it was a traumatic experience not just for
her, but for her family and friends as well. Together, they learned that adjusting and
coping with blindness is easier said than done.
         Bobbie and her family spent time with various counselors and teachers, who tried
to understand what they were going through. It was frustrating for Bobbie that no one
truly understood the emotions and concerns that she, her parents, and her friends were
         She made a resolution to herself then that she was going to pursue a career that
would enable her to help others adjust to similar experiences. Today, she is on track to
meeting that goal, and her trusted guide dog, Tyler, is with her every step of the way.
         ―I went through first year of college with a cane, and it was tough because there
was so much traffic,‖ Bobbie says. ―My cane broke four times because people bumped
into it.‖
         After some careful research, Bobbie came to the Guide Dog Foundation to train
with a guide dog. ―When they told me I could say ‗Find this classroom‘ and the dog
would take me right to it, I was amazed,‖ Bobbie recalls. ―I no longer had to walk in the
hallway feeling the doors to know which room I was in. Tyler really helps me see.‖
         A few years later — just a few months ago — Bobbie graduated from
Tennessee‘s Austin Peay University with a bachelor‘s degree in social work, and Tyler
was right by her side when she accepted her diploma. She has applied to a master‘s
degree program at the University of Tennessee, and hopes to continue her education
there. Her goal: to open a center that addresses the emotional issues people face when
they or a loved one develops a disability.
        ―I want to offer more than career placement and rehabilitation services for day to
day life, such as how to vacuum or wash the dishes despite blindness,‖ she says. ―I want
to address issues that are just as significant, such as what to expect when a blind teenager
starts dating. I can offer a perspective than many counselors cannot, because I have
experiences that my clients can build on; I see things from a disabled person‘s point of
        Bobbie‘s determination in part comes from the success she has achieved in her
own life, and her strong belief that people can accomplish goals even if they have a
disability – just take a look at her and Tyler. ―I have run into so many people in my life
who feel there is nothing they can do,‖ she says. ―They don‘t realize how many
opportunities there are.‖

―We were standing at a corner on the university campus, waiting to cross the street. I
heard two cars, but one had its radio so loud that I couldn‘t hear anything else. I heard
both cars go by, and gave the dog the command to cross the street. The dog didn‘t move
but I started going anyway; I knew I was supposed to wait for the dog, but for some
reason I started to cross anyway. All of a sudden, the dog jumped in front of me and
pushed me to the right. I fell on the ground and, as a result, missed being hit by three
cars, which I couldn‘t hear because of that loud radio.‖

Building Speed On The Road Of Life

―It is important for the students to be comfortable during the training program, because it
is a stressful period. There is a lot going on. Having some down time is important, so you
can relax.‖

Name: Jackie Mushington
Reisterstown, MD
Blind since:
Progressively lost vision since birth;
doctors yet to determine why
Age: 25
Current guide dog:
Parke, a 3-year-old female
black Labrador
Jackie Mushington disliked using her cane so much that one day, when she was 16 years
old, she walked into a store, took a price tag off an item and put it on her cane, and left
her cane in the store.
        ―I had cane skills, but I wasn‘t a fast walker with a cane,‖ Jackie recalls. ―And I
like to walk fast. I didn‘t like using my cane.‖
        After she graduated from college and settled down, Jackie decided to get a guide
dog. She noticed the benefits immediately – it was easier and safer
to cross streets; she could walk much faster; and the dog could find alternate routes if
there was an obstacle. ―When I used my cane, if I walked out of a building and people
were sitting on the steps, I would bump into them. Then I would have to wait for them to
get up so I could continue. Now, the dog just finds a different path.‖
        Jackie, who always wanted to work with children, is now a teacher. Her guide dog
accompanies her to school each day. While the students — second and third graders --
learn, Parke sleeps underneath her desk.
        ―The first day of class is always exciting,‖ Jackie says, ―because everyone wants
to know about the dog.‖ She approaches the situation by being open and direct. This puts
the students at ease.
        ―I sit down with the staff, and then the students, to talk about what the dog is for
and the rules governing the dog,‖ she says. ―It is the only day that the students can ask
me anything they want.‖
        One question she was asked regarded the things she can do with a guide dog that
she couldn‘t do before. ―In high school, I ran track,‖ she replied. ―When I finished high
school, I stopped running because I didn‘t have anyone to run with. Now, I am working
on jogging with my guide dog. She is going to love it. I certainly couldn‘t do that with
the cane.‖

―I approached a corner and told Parke to go forward. The light had changed and the
traffic started. As we stepped off the curb, she stopped, turned around, and pulled me
back to the curb. I was coaxing her to behave and cross the street, when the instructor
who was with me explained that I should be praising her instead. A bus had turned right
in front of us; she took me out of harm‘s way.‖

The Assurance of ―Blind Trust‖

―I am pleased that the expansion is possible to do. The plans are detailed and well laid
out. I am very excited about it.‖

Name: John Ostlund
Cheyenne, WY
Blind since:
Age 57, due to diabetes
Age: 72
Retired Wyoming state senator
Current guide dog:
Russ, an 8-year old yellow Labrador/Golden Retriever cross

My wife and I owned a grand ranch in the mountains west of Cheyenne. After blindness
came, I began to get depressed. What I could not cope with was my absolute and total
loss of independence. Most of my time found me thinking of no longer driving, no way
to look at livestock, no way to handle accounts, no reading. On and on, negatives piled
         Every Thursday morning I was in the habit of driving to Cheyenne where I served
on the Board of Directors of a bank. With sadness, I told myself I should resign.
         Then something simple happened that more than shifted my attitude — it caused a
positive, optimistic turnabout in me. That something was a black Lab guide dog.
         The first time I ever walked with my guide dog in harness returned all the good
feelings as I strode along the street. Had I been granted a magic carpet to take me
wherever I wished, I could not have felt better than I did. The previous two years of
shuffling along blindly, then with a white cane, had caused me to forget the barely
discernable yet vivid pleasure of a swift walk by myself.
         My guide dog and I were a team. Two creatures working was transforming, and
in any situation whatsoever, I had the untroubled assurance of blind trust. We were a
terrific team. He gave me back the independence I felt I had lost forever.
         As Jamie carefully guided me around the ranch, we added a smattering of new
words to his vocabulary, such as corral, creek, auto gate, tack shed, barn, cows and
horses. For me, I began to feel there was hardly any limit to what I could do if I put my
mind to it. What‘s more, we were having fun.
         When Jamie was due for retirement, the parting was an emotional time for me.
This fellow had given me a new life and a new outlook, but he had more than earned his
right to retire. So it was back to school in Smithtown for me, where I was to meet and
partner up with a new blond fellow named Russ.
         Russ quickly learned the ranch routine, but we decided to sell and move into the
capital of Cheyenne. Now, at the age of 71, I am still busy each day going about my new
life with my new dog. Russ, following in Jamie‘s footsteps, is an honorary member of
the Rotary Club and the Young Men‘s Literary Club; we go to the meetings together.
Like Jamie, he takes me to Board meetings at the Old West Museum and all the other
places I need to go.
        Both Jamie and Russ have been lifesavers. Of course, guide dogs are highly
protective of their partner‘s every safe step, but it is the freedom they provide to go
places, to be able to meet greet, visit and accomplish work that I prize – the liberty of
independence. And best of all, Jamie and Russ have lavished me with unconditional
        Who could ask for more?
This story was adapted from an article that John wrote for the February 1999 issue of
―We‖ magazine.

―At a dinner, I bragged about my dog‘s ability to find our car in a large parking lot. With
no fewer than 100 automobiles in rows outside, my friend wanted to wager the price of
dinner that Jamie could not find our vehicle on the first try. Hands down, we won the

Long-Awaited Access To The World

―The covered leash relieving station is great! It will be so much better than standing out
in the freezing cold snow. When I was at class, there was a blizzard. It was hard for the
dog and me to stand outside.‖

Name: Sheila Schneider
Chicago, IL
Blind since:
 Age 27, due to a genetic disorder
Age: 41
Administrative assistant bookkeeper
for a book publisher
Current guide dog:
 Russ, a 5-year-old yellow Labrador

I have trouble cleaning my apartment because I can‘t see things on the floor. How are
they going to teach me to take care of a guide dog?‖ That is what was going through
Sheila Schneider‘s mind when she came to the Guide Dog Foundation to train with her
first dog .
        Once she completed the program and returned home with Russ, her point of view
was completely different. ―Now,‖ Sheila says, ―I don‘t know what I‘d do without my
guide dog.‖
        At first, Sheila didn‘t want to admit that she had a vision problem. ―I was in
denial, even though I was falling a lot and bumping into things,‖ she says. When she
finally got a cane, she was frustrated because it didn‘t help her much, and she ―wanted to
do things by herself.‖
        One day, Sheila saw the Foundation‘s public service announcement on television,
and that struck a chord with her. ―I knew that at some point I was going to lose all of my
vision, and I didn‘t want my family to have to care for me for the rest of my life.‖
        And so Sheila contacted the Foundation. And she believes that getting a guide
dog is the best decision she has ever made.
        ―I never thought Russ would be the vision that I do not have anymore. And he is,
completely,‖ she says. ―I thought that even with a guide dog I would still fall and bump
into things. That doesn‘t happen anymore. Russ has made an incredible difference in my
        With Sheila‘s newfound mobility and confidence, she and Russ take to Chicago.
―I pretty much walk or take the bus everywhere I go. Now, I can travel quicker, and I
feel safer. And I don‘t fall on the stairs when I board the bus.‖
        But what is most special to Sheila about her guide dog is that he enables her to go
places she never would have dreamed of going with a cane. ―I never went anywhere at
night by myself for about 10 years,‖ she says. ―I was afraid I would not be able to get
back home safely. With Russ, I go everywhere I want to — even places where I haven‘t
been in years.
        ―I go to the movies by myself now, even though the theaters are dark.
I hadn‘t been to the movies in 20 years. For a movie buff, that alone is worth it.‖

―Russ stopped in the middle of the street when a taxi came whizzing by. If he hadn‘t
stopped me from walking, we surely would have been hit.‖

―I Owe This Dog My Life‖

―You need private time with your dog, so single rooms will be wonderful. You can get to
know your dog better before you go home. This is especially important for first-time

Name: Samantha Thomas
Pine Level, NC
Blind since:
 Her late teens, due to
retinitis pigmentosis
Age: 30
Full-time mom to two daughters
Current guide dog:
Dori, 3-year-old Golden/Lab cross

When I was in class getting Dori, I sometimes felt that maybe she would better serve
someone else. Do you want to know what changed my mind?
        Shortly before I applied to the Guide Dog Foundation, I was almost hit in front of
our local Wal-Mart because I didn't see a van and didn't hear it coming. Then I learned of
a person who has the same eye disease I have. He fell off a platform up north because he
was too bull-headed to admit that he had a vision problem.
        After returning home with Dori, I was able to find my way around an airport that I
had been to only a few times in my life. It was only my second time at this particular
terminal -- the first was my trip to New York to get a guide dog in the first place.
        I had been home with Dori only a short while when I was going into our little
town's downtown area. Dori stopped just before a drive-thru to the local bank. I tried to
give her the command to continue walking, but she refused to go. A few seconds later, a
truck came through the drive-thru road.
        Dori had refused to go forward. The folks actually stopped the truck to tell me
how great my dog was. Things like this have happened numerous times.
        The biggest day of my life with Dori happened two Halloweens ago. I owe this
dog not only my life, but also the lives of my children.
        We were crossing the main road between our subdivision and the one across the
street. I had taken it upon myself to make sure both my children went trick-or-treating
with their mom.
It had been a long time since we had been trick-or-treating because of my vision. I just
couldn't see at night.
        As we were crossing the street, Dori bolted me forward. I had the stroller in my
other hand, and my oldest daughter was hanging on to it. Dori pulled us out from in front
of a car that was going way too fast on a night when it should have been slowed down
due to the children.
        After that night, I never again questioned my need for a guide. I never would
have heard the car or known it was coming had I still been using my cane. It was scary.
Lord knows I tremble and almost get reduced to tears each time I think about it.
        Dori has opened up doors for me that I had closed upon myself and allowed my
family to close due to my own fear. Dori gave me my freedom back. I will gladly deal
with fleas, vet bills, scheduled feedings, shedding, etc. I will take that every day and
twice on Sundays if it means that I won't have to take that cane day in and day out.
        So when you are wondering about if and why people need guide dogs, just listen
to those of us who do work with our dogs. It doesn‘t matter if we are totally blind or
partially blind. We all need help getting around. Our dogs provide a service for that
        Dori is more than just a guide dog now. She is actually closer to me than my best
friend. She means as much to me as my children and husband. I wouldn‘t trade that for
anything in the world.
       But, the best thing is that, all things considered, we had a great Halloween that
night. Dori made it possible for me to do what a mom should do on Halloween. And in
her unique style, she saved our cabooses.

The Pride Of The Road Well Traveled

―Having separate rooms for the students is a great thing because it allows for a better
bonding experience between the dog and the handler.‖

Name: Mark Titus
Little Rock, AR
Blind since:
Birth, due to genetic disorder
Age: 25
Program Producer at KARN Radio
Current guide dog:
Max, a 6-year-old yellow Labrador

Robert Frost may have touted the benefits of the road less traveled, but for Mark Titus,
the road well traveled has often been the better path.
        Blind since birth, Mark was having difficulty navigating his college campus, the
University of Arkansas at Little Rock. ―I was always tripping and running into people,‖
he recalls. ―I needed a cane to get around, but I was hard-headed and didn‘t want to use
one. I was tired of the perception associated with it, and of people treating me like a 7-
year-old. I knew I wanted a guide dog.‖

        When he and Max first tackled the campus together, the results were eye-opening.
―I saw the campus through totally different eyes. I found there were ways of getting
around that I never knew were there before.‖ But what was most useful for Mark was the
dog‘s ability to maneuver around obstacles. Mark didn‘t realize that there were better
ways for him to get around the obstacles he was encountering on his daily travels.
        ―With a cane, I always went the road less traveled, because I didn‘t know any
other way,‖ he says. ―With a guide dog, I realized they were less traveled for a reason.
The dog showed me the best way to get around, and I had no trouble getting to where I
needed to go.‖
        Mark now is a Program Producer at KARN Radio in Little Rock. As a sort of
―electronic traffic cop,‖ he ensures that all programs air properly, sees to it that satellite
feeds come as they should, and handles weekday coverage of the Arkansas Razorbacks.
When he started along this career path, Mark learned that broadcasting is a competitive
field, and he could not let his vision impairment push him down the ladder of success.
        ―Persistence and ambition have helped me get to where I am today in terms of my
career. Blindness was a challenge I had to meet head on,‖ he says.
―I have learned how to roll with the punches of life.‖
        Mark‘s inner strength helped him tackle life‘s challenges, but he says he couldn‘t
have done it without Max.
―Max has really helped boost my confidence,‖ Mark says. ―Recently, my mom moved
upstate and I really had to really fend for myself. With a cane, I couldn‘t get to the bank
by myself because I had to cross a 5-lane street; I knew there were obstacles, and if I got
stuck, it would be dangerous.‖
        So, now that he has Max, does
Mark still back away from this road well traveled? ―Not at all,‖ Mark declares, ―because
Max handles the route just fine.‖

After having lunch at a food court, his friend forgot where the car was parked. After
wandering the lot, they returned to the main entrance to start the search again. Max
tugged Mark to the right. Mark followed until the dog stopped. He had stopped right in
front of the car.

About the Guide Dog Foundation
Over 50 Years of Second Sight®

Since 1946, the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc. has provided guide dogs free
of charge to people who are blind or visually impaired. Our breeding program is known
internationally for producing Labrador and Golden Retrievers that have the intelligence,
sound temperament and gentleness that make these champion dogs ideal for guiding
people who are blind.
All of our services, including guide dogs, transportation to our campus from anywhere in
North America, room and board during the training program, and training, are offered
free of charge. In addition, we provide a lifetime of aftercare services to our consumers.
Because of our proven track record for success, blind students from all over the United
States and several foreign countries come to our campus for training.
Our programs are made possible entirely through contributions from generous
individuals, corporations and foundations. The Guide Dog Foundation receives no
government funding.
In order to meet the increased demands for our programs and services, the Guide Dog
Foundation for the Blind has embarked on an ambitious expansion of services,
highlighted by a building project and campus development plan. By increasing our
capabilities to breed and train even more guide dogs each year, we will be able to provide
the gift of Second Sight ® to even more blind people who seek the independence and
mobility that a guide dog provides. For further information about the Foundation, and for
naming opportunities, contact:
Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind Inc. ®
371 East Jericho Turnpike
Smithtown, NY 11787
(800) 548-4337
 Fax (631) 361-5192

Shared By: