Graduation photo of Margeaux and guide dog Junebug. Guide Dogs for the Blind, March 5, 2011.
Today is a VERY special day. It was four years ago that my mom and I graduated as team from Guide Dogs for the Blind. Cheers! I got a Bug idea that it would be great day for my mom to write a guest blog post.
One day in my mid twenties I went to check the TV Guide channel, but discovered I couldn’t read it. It was very blurry. Long story short. After seeing different eye doctors and then a specialist, I was diagnosed with bilateral optic neuropathy. It caused my central vision to become impaired.
I was ignorant as to what the visually impaired could do.
Thankfully, I got connected with a rehabilitation center for the blind. I learned to read Braille and was trained in Orientation and Mobility (O&M). I was taught how to use a white cane and navigate the world with low eyesight.
I became educated. I befriended lots of different blind and visually impaired people. They became my mentors.
I won’t lie, loosing my eyesight was a difficult adjustment. Slowly but surely I adjusted. I became proficient at O&M and my confidence grew.
Then one day I started entertaining the idea of getting a guide dog. I did my research and talked with a lot of my friends who were guide dog users. I prayed, slept on it, and listened to my heart.
I was ready!
I applied to Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB). After several phone interviews and a home visit, I got the call that I was accepted.
Approximately six months later on Valentine’s Day 2011, I flew out to Guide Dogs San Rafael, CA campus. Three days after arriving it was Dog Day at GDB. This is the day that guide dogs and their partners first meet. It’s a day filled with emotion. I was patiently waiting in my dorm room when I heard the door slowly open. In came a beautiful female yellow Labrador Retriever named Junebug. Her trainer, handed the leash over to me.
I couldn’t help it. I broke down and started crying happy tears.
Junebug guiding Margeaux in downtown San Rafael, CA 2011.
We trained together for three weeks. Junebug came trained, but there were a lot of important things I had to learn as a first time guide dog handler.
Four years ago, on Saturday March 5, 2011, Junebug and I graduated as a team from GDB (see video). At the graduation ceremony I met the couple who raised Junebug. It is a selfless act of kindness what they did and all puppy raisers do. Four years later I keep in regular communication with her raisers. Junebug and I have even visited them twice. They have become like family to me.
Mine and Junebug’s journey officially began the day we graduated from Guide Dogs.
Since graduating, Junebug has saved me more than once from being hit by a car. One time she even saved me from being hit, by of all things, an ambulance. It had not yet turned on its siren. She heard the vehicle coming up from below a parking garage, but I did not. Junebug did just as Guide Dogs for the Blind taught her to do. She stopped guiding me forward and quickly backed me up. Exactly at that time was when the ambulance turned on its siren. It happened so fast. I’ll never forget that day.
Little things can be big. It’s all about perspective. Junebug will find me an empty seat in a crowded waiting room. She can also find me the buttons you push when wanting to cross the street. These little things are huge to me.
I’ll never be able to repay her for all she does for me. I do my best to reward her with lots of love, toys, and surprise treats. Her favorite treat is frozen banana and all natural peanut butter.
Top photo: Junebug (right) and Jules (left) in harness. Bottom photo: Junebug (right) and Jules (left) lying down next to one another smiling.
It’s not all work for Junebug. I find it very important to balance work with play time. She has three toy boxes that just keep growing fuller. Her favorite game to play is tug and fetch. She has many other guide dog friends. Her best fur friend is Jules. He is a male Lab/Golden cross and also is a working guide dog. The two have regular play dates. Just for fun, I’ve taught Junebug twenty-nine neat tricks and counting. She can sure put on a show!
Junebug’s name fits perfect with her personality. She is bubbly and outgoing. She loves life and loves attention (when not in harness, of course). She is very compassionate and empathetic.
I’m beyond blessed to have her.
Junebug confidently guiding Margeaux down a local city sidewalk.
Today, I am an advocate, motivational speaker, and artist. I realize I may have partially lost my sight, but I have not lost my vision.
My mission is to educate, empower, and motivate others.
I can’t thank GDB, Junebug’s raisers, her trainer, donors, and all those involved in helping her to become the guide dog she is today.
A guide dog puppy named Junebug was raised and my life was PAWsitively changed.
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