Tiffany Wilson of Jacksonville, Fla., didn't let vision loss keep her from leading a full and active life. And she enjoys it all with her Golden Retriever Guide Dog Vernie from Guide Dogs for the Blind.
"I like to tell people to dream big! I compete in sports like running, soccer and in the high jump and long jump," Tiffany said. "But I didn't start sports until the ripe age of 32, about a year before I got my first guide, Melba. It was at a Lion's Club-sponsored Braille Olympics in San Diego. I thought it was a sports competition for kids, but I was wrong. At their invitation, I took the opportunity to try out running, long jump and high jump. My times were so good, I submitted them to the United States Association of Blind Athletes and ended up qualifying for the Pam-Am Games for the Blind in Quebec. There, I won gold medals in the high jump and the long jump, and a bronze in the 200 and 100 meter. I've also won the USA Track and Field Masters Track awards.
"I call my Guide Dog Vernie my 'mile-a-minute' dog—we're matched quite well. He manages to keep pace with me in my travels to competitions in Quebec, Boston, and other destinations. He's very conscientious when it comes to guidework—he'll stop on a dime and give you a nickel and four pennies in change! He has great endurance and I like that. He's really good on public transportation—tucks right under a bus seat.
"Vernie likes hanging around the track with other athletes; in fact, he even got his picture taken in front of the whole team at the World Championships. Athletes from other countries were so amazed by what my Guide Dog could do. It caused me to stop and look at it through all these other people's eyes—it's an awesome gift."