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Client Corner: Ethan Edwards Talks with Chloe McDonald

Wednesday June 12, 2024

A photo composite of two GDB clients with their guide dogs. One client wraps her arms around her black Lab and the other client stands on a beach with his yellow Lab.

Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) Client Ethan Edwards recently sat down with fellow GDB Alum Chloe McDonald for an engaging talk about her GDB experience and how participating in GDB's programs at a young age influenced her decision to get a guide dog. Ethan’s story is part of our Client Corner series where clients interview one another about their lived experiences.  

Best Friends Exploring the World Together: Meet Chloe and Granite 
By Ethan Edwards

Increased independence, added confidence and a special bond are just a few of the benefits of guide dog partnership. For GDB client Chloe McDonald, these benefits have enriched her life.

Chloe lives near Portland, Oregon studying for a degree in early childhood education. In her free time, Chloe enjoys attending hockey games with her grandfather, as well as traveling. Some of her notable travel destinations include New York City, Vancouver BC, and Gatlinburg Tennessee.

Many of the activities Chloe enjoys are done with her guide dog, Granite. The two are now in their third year of partnership.

Chloe’s first experience with GDB began at age 2 when she participated in an Easter egg hunt put on by the Seattle puppy raisers. At age 10, she received a K9 Buddy from GDB named Lewis. The K9 Buddy program matches specially selected dogs to be companions and pets to people who are blind or have low vision. The program aims to not only give someone a furry friend but also teach people the responsibilities and lifestyle of taking care of a dog.

“As a youngin, I was afraid of big dogs,” Chloe said. “But once Lewis came into the picture, his gentle personality helped me overcome my fears, and I enjoyed the responsibility of taking care of a dog. After a few years of caring for him, I knew it was time to deeply consider the guide dog lifestyle.”

Fast forward to 2018 when Chloe attended Camp GDB. Camp GDB is a weeklong summer camp that teaches various aspects of the guide dog lifestyle, offers leisure activities, and allows teens who are blind or have low vision to meet other like-minded individuals and build meaningful friendships.

Coming into camp, Chloe was still trying to decide if the guide dog lifestyle was for her. “Before camp, I was excited to get this fun experience,” Chloe said. “I did want to get a dog, but I was off and on debating the pros and cons.”

Two meaningful experiences at Camp GDB helped Chloe put the guide dog lifestyle into perspective. The first one was when she had the opportunity to walk with a guide dog. “Walking with a guide dog, I felt like I had gained more confidence and independence than I had with cane travel,” Chloe said.

The other meaningful experience she had was caring for a dog. That’s when campers have a dog stay overnight with them and learn how to groom, exercise, feed, and relieve their guide dog. “The dog overnight was a fun, phenomenal experience,” Chloe said. “For a second I had those thoughts running through my head of this could be me one day.”

After attending Camp GDB for a second summer, Chloe made her decision.  “I was sold on getting a guide dog,” Chloe said.

Jump to December 2020 when Chloe attended formal guide dog mobility training and was matched with Granite, a black Labrador Retriever.

The two spent the next two weeks together learning to be a successful guide dog team. Along the way, Chloe felt well-supported by GDB staff and made close friendships with her classmates.

Her most memorable moment was her first walk alone with Granite. “When I picked up the harness for the first time, and said ‘Granite forward,’ I knew right off the bat it was going to be life-changing,” Chloe said. “I had this feeling of confidence that I’d never felt before.”

After class, Chloe continued to forge friendships within GDB’s community and alumni groups. “You build new connections, make new friends, and your guides get to come together too,” Chloe said.

Now approaching their fourth year of partnership, Chloe and Granite are a well-established team. Chloe enjoys the confidence and independence she experiences with Granite by her side. As with any guide dog team, the bond they share is unbreakable.

Granite has been with me through the good times and bad,” Chloe said. “She is my best friend.”

Learn more about our guide dog program.

Read more about GDB's Youth Programs, including K9 Buddy and Camp GDB.

Categories: GDB Alumni, GDB Community, GDB Youth Programs