How the Guide Dog Lifestyle Can Improve Your Life
At Guide Dogs for the Blind, we want to show you how partnering with a Guide Dog can enhance your life. While a guide dog and a cane are both mobility options, there's a lot more to a guide dog than mobility. And there are also differences in having a guide dog and having a pet. There's no question that you will find incredible love and affection from your dog, but a Guide Dog partnership means a lot more.
A whole new world of possibilities opens up to you through this partnership. A Guide Dog is a working animal, and you are a partner in that work. It is a symbiotic relationship. It takes training and a serious commitment to build a safe and successful team. The dog will accompany you during all your daily routines and needs to receive excellent care in order to work effectively. You will be the primary caregiver, responsible for feeding, relieving (even when it's raining outside), ear and teeth cleaning, consistent exercise, play, ongoing veterinary care, etc. Your dog will give you unconditional love and affection, will make you laugh, bring you joy, guide you safely, introduce you to new people, and share in your world. Together you will discover new places to go.
Your Guide Dog will have a very distinct personality, and there will be an adjustment required to accommodate that new personality into your life and with family and friends. Your Guide Dog will go through all of the ups and downs, the struggles and joys of your life—with you. But there will also be times when you may become frustrated with each other; when you'll question your connection. Like all good relationships, you'll need to be committed to working through those times.
GDB graduates have described their Guide Dogs as best friends, mind readers, even soul mates. It's a rapport that is much deeper than what most of us have experienced, even with another human being, because this relationship requires not just companionship but absolute trust and interdependence.
"Guide Dogs for the Blind is a place of positive energy from the instructors, who are so patient and kind, to the helpful and loving staff. Everyone makes you feel right at home.
—Ayaka Isono and Pablo
"Partnering with a Guide Dog is all about trust and teamwork. No one knows that better than me."
—World Trade Center survivor Michael Hingson and Roselle
Guide Dogs for the Blind is unique in providing post-graduation support to all graduates at their home or place of business for the life of the Guide Dog team.
Guide Dogs for the Blind has developed extensive follow-up programs with professionally certified instructors stationed across the country to provide in-home assessment and assistance visits to our alumni. If you have unique challenges, an instructor may work right alongside you in your home environment to be sure you get off to a positive start. Telephone counseling is always available for dog management, veterinary questions or mobility concerns and, if necessary, we will visit you personally to help you resolve any problems that may arise.
You will always be a member of our alumni, even if you no longer have a Guide Dog in your life.
Guide Dogs' full-time veterinarians provide excellent support to all GDB puppies and guides through all stages of their lives, whether through on-campus care or via consultation with outside veterinarians. After you graduate, staff is available to consult with your local veterinarian to make sure your guide is getting the best possible care.
Guide Dogs for the Blind provides unparalleled veterinary support, collaborating with hundreds of veterinarians through Guide Dogs' Veterinary Financial Assistance Program to help ensure all dogs receive the quality health care they deserve. The veterinarians in the program provide their services for free or at reduced cost. For alumni who need financial assistance to provide routine or specialty veterinary care, GDB has established a program to provide support.
"I can't say enough about the care and love the GDB veterinary staff gave my dog. They were just amazing!"
—Ann Kysor and Savvy
Advocacy and Education
Access laws in the United States and Canada, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Blind Persons' Rights Acts (Canada), permit guide dogs and their handlers in all public places: stores, restaurants, office buildings, hotels, buses, taxis, airplanes and all areas of public accommodation. We have a strong commitment to educating the public on the rights of guide dog users, and will provide assistance to our alumni in dealing with any problems they might encounter related to access.
Retirement of a Guide Dog
Many Guide Dogs work until they are 8-10 years old, but this varies with the individual dog and its lifestyle. When it's time for your guide to retire, you may decide to keep your retired guide as a pet, or place it with a family member or close friend. If you prefer, we can even place your dog with its original puppy raiser or another loving family. Retiring a Guide Dog can be an emotional time. Our professional counselor, also a Guide Dog user, is available to help graduates deal with this transition.
"You fastened yourself to me completely at age 2 and were mine for 12 amazing years. We sped down streets at a pace that made some adults breathless, and as long as I told you what to do - forward, left, right - my life and absolute trust were in your paws. Your loyalty and devotion were profound lessons."
—Deborah Kendrick, of her former guide Clarice
How You Can Get Involved in GDB's Mission
Aside from your hard work during training and your commitment to your Guide Dog partnership, we place no obligations on your time or your pocketbook. Yet our mission wouldn't be possible if it were not for the time, effort, and financial support of our community of more than 2,000 graduates.
Guide Dogs for the Blind alumni serve on our Board of Directors, on our staff, and as volunteers. They are donors, puppy raisers and public speakers. They are involved on our campuses and in their local communities. They are active in shaping our future.
This is an exciting time to be involved with GDB. Our Alumni Association is developing local chapters and activities.
We are firm believers in the idea that we're stronger as a community, and we'd be most pleased if you choose to actively participate in the Alumni Association. You'll receive more information on the Alumni Association during your class training program.
"I dreamed of having a Guide Dog ever since I was 8 years old. Thank you for making my boyhood vision a reality. Traveling with Phoenix is everything I ever thought it would be. I'm no longer finding obstacles – as far as we're concerned, there are no obstacles."
—Corbb O'Connor and Phoenix
Compensating for lost abilities and making it look easy is of paramount importance. I want to be known for my work, not my blindness. When the focus remains on the ease with which my Guide Dog and I move, it is good for me as a person and as a professional."
—Morgan Watkins and Will