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Client Corner: Maia Scott Talks with Chantal Emmanuelli

Monday March 11, 2024

Composite photo of two women with their guide dogs.

Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) Client and Alumni Board member Maia Scott (above right with guide dog Gleam) recently caught up with fellow GDB Alum Chantal Emmanuelli (above left with guide dog Keiko) for an engaging talk about Chantal’s experience with our Orientation and Mobility Immersion program and her active lifestyle. Maia’s story is part of a new series called Client Corner where clients interview one another about their lived experiences. 

A Journey with a Cane and Keiko the Canine  
By Maia Scott

Chantal Emmanuelli always knew she wanted a guide dog. But before she would be ready to work with a dog, she knew she would have to advance her travel competence skills to achieve her goal. In 2022, Chantal enrolled in GDB’s Orientation and Mobility Immersion program.

“I did the OMI program to improve my street crossings, and to be more independent and confident in those skills, says Chantal adding, “I appreciated how willing my instructor was to re-explain concepts or answer any and all questions I had.” Chantal also valued the time her instructor spent with her practicing different street crossings. “Being able to go out and do training at crosswalks was immensely beneficial to really practice those skills.”

Along the way, Chantal says her instructor offered opportunities to test drive the guide dog experience. “She also would integrate working with the guide dog harness and go over how those (street crossing) skills would translate to guide dog handling and traveling safely with a guide.”

Chantal walked away from the program with strengthened self-assurance in her mobility. “I felt it definitely helped me gain more confidence in my ability to safely evaluate street crossings and know when it’s a safe time to cross.” And she felt like she took some steps closer to learning what it was like to walk alongside a guide. “This was vital in opening up my independence to travel with a cane and then with a guide dog.”

That guide dog goal came to fruition in October 2023 when Chantal walked the graduation stage with a female yellow Labrador Retriever. “Keiko has a really playful and energetic personality,” says Chantal. “She’s always ready to leave the house and go for a brisk walk.”

Chantal feels like GDB made a perfect match with her and Keiko because they both enjoy being active. “I love getting out and going on walks with my guide dog or just exploring new places,” says Chantal, adding “Kayaking in the summer is always fun.”

When she’s not busy enjoying the great outdoors, Chantal enjoys songwriting and playing guitar. “I like to write country pop music, more of the crossover music. I'm also always looking to grow my list of hobbies and challenge myself to try new things that I might not normally do on a daily basis.”

One unexpected and unpleasant challenge made an impact on Chantal, in a good way. Some fine-tuned observation skills paired with a perky yellow Lab proved the perfect combination just after her two-week training with Keiko. “We were crossing a busy street on our first day back at work, and I kid you not, her guide dog skills were put to the test!” says Chantal who describes how a driver made an illegal right turn and came within a few feet of hitting her. “Keiko stopped in her tracks and saved us from this reckless driver. I was astonished at how amazing this dog was!” Chantal recalls. “Every day I’m with her, I’m reminded of that day and how incredible she is. That moment reassured me that getting a guide dog was the best decision I could have made.”

Chantal says her positive experience with Keiko and interactions with staff and volunteers at GDB had her imaging how rewarding it might be to work for GDB and “be a part of helping other people who are visually impaired feel that sense of belonging and joy from a guide dog match.”

An opportunity to apply for a Resident Advisor (RA) position on GDB’s Oregon campus came sooner than she expected. “In my head I thought ‘OMG, this role is perfect!’” She applied and after receiving the offer, moved two thousand miles to Oregon to start her new adventure. “I’m so excited to get to meet so many amazing clients, learn from them, and make connections and friendships with people that live the guide dog lifestyle and just relate to being visually impaired.”

With Keiko at her side, Chantal says she is filled with so much gratitude. “I’m excited to be a part of making a difference in the world and give back to this organization that has given so much to me already.”

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Categories: GDB Alumni, GDB Community, GDB Staff Profile