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Video portraits of three Guide Dog handlers are accompanied by a montage of images which portray the life of a Guide Dog.

Furry puppies romp and wiggle in the play area. They explore the world in bright green jackets. A dog-in-training negotiates traffic. Another stops at a curb and then at an overhead obstacle. A yellow lab steps onto the escalator in his booties. A Guide Dog rides the subway. Another walks along a wooded path. While their partners speak to camera, their dogs nap at their feet.

Morgan: "I found out at the age of eleven that I was going to lose my vision. My parents found out that both of their sons had a disease called retinitis pigmentosa. I knew basically immediately, absolutely at the moment that I remember it well, that the one thing I could not let happen was as the vision deteriorated for my blindness to get in the way."

Ken: "My name is Ken Altenburger and this is my Guide Dog Bristol and Bristol is a Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever cross. He is five years old. I used a cane for about three years. I'm a little bit competitive. A very good friend of mine came up here to get a dog first and we'd always travel together with our canes and I was always proud of how I was slightly better cane traveler than he was. Well, when he got back with his dog the first place we went he was 300 yards down the road and I can't keep up with him. And I said, 'Okay, where's the application? I want to get a dog.'"

Sherry: "My name is Sherry Gomes and I have my dog Bianca. She's a female black lab. She's about eight years old. The first time I picked up a harness and told the very first dog 'forward,' I felt free in a way that I never had because I could walk faster. I've always been slow, I have a little limp, with a cane I was even slower, and suddenly I felt like I could be equal to everybody."

Morgan: "There is such an incredible bond between us and the animals, and when you can see the world through a Guide Dog, you can focus on instead of having to listen, or to be aware of each individual step, every curb, every tree limb hanging over a sidewalk. Canes don't find those. With the dog you can go ahead and listen to the crunching of leaves under your feet, and smell the coffee as you walk by, and it means that when you're trying to compete in a sighted world, you want to be able to let your brain do more than say, 'How do I get from point A to point B without getting hurt?'"

Ken: "When you go from using a cane to using a dog, basically when you're a cane traveler, you probe at the curb, you probe when you come in contact with a pole. When you use a dog, you have to learn to trust that dog's movement, and that's a big area of adjustment for anybody."

Sherry: "Things that might not trip up the average person, even the average blind person, can cause me to trip and that can be a very slight dip in the sidewalk. So you're walking down the sidewalk and there's a driveway and the sidewalk dips down. That doesn't bother the average person but that could cause me to lose my balance and fall. And with Bianca from day one, she just seemed to understand it."

Ken: "The possibility of severe injury in front of you, or even death, it really wakes you up. That's the part that's always amazing to me is we're trusting them and they trust us and we're out there in harm's way and they're out there with our best interests in mind."

Morgan: "When you can go and have a major life change and then get to find out that on the other side of the fence there exists the ability to be with a dog 24 hours. A creature that loves you and will work for you and in his or her own way protect you and be a part of you is one of the greatest gifts on the planet."

Guide Dogs for the Blind
www.guidedogs.com
800-295-4050

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