Robin Smithtro of Louisville, Colo., didn't let vision loss keep her from enjoying a full, active lifestyle. She's done it all with her German Shepherd guides Courtney and Kava from Guide Dogs for the Blind.
"I grew up in a family that didn't do a lot of outdoor activities," Robin said. "My active outdoor lifestyle came about after I moved to Oregon and got my first Guide Dog, Courtney. We got into hiking, backpacking and camping. I was such an avid hiker that my hiking club friends called me 'Radar Feet' because with Courtney I hardly ever missed a step or stumbled.
"Then I read about an organization called Ski for Light that offers guided cross-country skiing. I'd never been on skis before, but I was feeling good about my successes in hiking and my other outdoor ventures. I decided to give it a try and I've been hooked ever since.
"Guided cross-country skiing has given me an even greater love for the outdoors. I've met so many positive, fun people who like being fit. They're active with their Guide Dogs and always on the move. It's great to be around others for whom blindness is 'normal,' and it gives me a healthy outlet for my pent-up energy.
"I recently placed third in a 26-mile race; I was the only one who was blind among 400 classic cross-country skiers. It's great to help break down stereotypes and reshape the image of blind athletes. I want to keep racing, and I'm considering trying out for the national team.
"Many of my skiing friends have Guide Dogs—they're people who are active and on the move. Kava is my current Guide Dog and I love the fact that she's so fast! She helps me keep in shape to do the things I love. There's nothing like being stretched and supported in a positive way to help build confidence. I really encourage anyone to give it a try. It's worth it."