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Graduate Dianne Phelps hugs her black lab Guide Dog, Primrose.Some people measure their lives in years. I measure mine by moments with my Guide Dogs. Over the past 38 years, my seven guides have left an indelible impression on my soul. My life's milestones are joined forever with memories of the dog beside me.

Everybody goes through certain rites of passage in their lives. I am no different—only I am never alone. My first guide, Golden Retriever Bobby, was at my side when I started college in the late 60s. I was on my own for the first time, and his presence felt like freedom itself. It was my next guide, black Lab Kenny, who joined me at the university's commencement exercises.

Yellow Lab Bev helped me feel calm and confident as I went on job interviews; and it was black Lab Jalisa with whom I set off to build my career as a medical transcriptionist. My Guide Dogs have also taught me some great lessons over the years. Black Lab Storey taught me the meaning of strength and dignity, and yellow Lab Krista who taught me how to see the beauty in each moment.

If you've ever cherished an animal of your own, you understand the enormity of the special kind of love the human-animal bond can foster. But Guide Dogs are even more than dear pets. Guide Dogs are our ultimate partners. When you and your beloved dog rely on each other for nearly everything, your love is multiplied to epic proportions. Your life is different. Better. Freer. Getting around safely is only the beginning.

I am very lucky to have experienced such deep and enduring connections with my Guide Dogs. At every stage of my life, Guide Dogs for the Blind has been there for me, providing the dogs, training, and follow-up services to help me achieve the kind of life I've always wanted. It is this "lifetime scholarship" that gives me the security of knowing that Guide Dogs will be there for me now and in the future and will provide me with guides and support at no charge.

Throughout my life, my guides have given me a multitude of blessings. Today, black Lab Primrose is my constant companion. She is a special girl, and I know we're meant to be together. One of the greatest feelings in life is having a best friend with whom to share your exhilaration for the world, and I am grateful to have had seven "best friends" by my side as I travel down this road called life.

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