2015 National Service Animal Eye Exam

Junebug receiving her 2015 National Service Dog Eye Exam.

Junebug receiving her 2015 National Service Animal Eye Exam.

I am extra waggy happy this morning. Yesterday I had my annual ACVO 2015 National Service Animal Eye Exam and was told that my eyes are looking perfectly healthy, wags wags wags!

My eyes are vital to my successful work as a guide dog for the blind who proudly guides my mom. On our ride over to the appointment, my mom was shaking her foot fast. I pick up on her energy really well. I knew she was feeling nervous and in knowing so, I softly rested my head on her lap. Although my mom felt like I would be given a good report, this was not a 100 % guarantee. That unknown was scary for her. A flood of relief came once we heard, “Your eyes look beautiful,” from the Veterinarian Ophthalmologist. Those words couldn’t have been more welcoming to our ears.

Here is a video collage of my eye exam. My mom said she was so very proud of me. I stayed still for the exam, except for the couple of times I turned my head and gave the assistant a few big Bug kisses. I couldn’t resist!

The ACVO National Service Animal Eye Exam event is a philanthropic effort generously provided to the public by the board certified Diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists who donate their time, staff and services to provide free screening ocular exams to qualified Service Animals.

This program would not be successful without the generosity of our Diplomates and the financial support of all our valuable sponsors. 

Over 38,000 Service Animals have received these free screening exams over the past seven years. Please participate, support our ophthalmologists and sponsors to ensure this program continues in 2016 and beyond.”

– Stacee Daniel, ACVO Executive Director

Junebug (left) and her BFF Jules (right) get a Strawberry and Cream dog treat.

Junebug (left) and her BFF Jules (right)  being given a Strawberry and Cream dog treat.

After my eye exam my mom treated Jules, my BFF aka best fur friend furever, and I to a delicious Strawberry and Cream dog treat. This was a treat she had picked up from the local dog bakery. The taste of the smooth strawberry and carob dipped treat delighted my taste buds.

My mom and I are profoundly grateful that my eyes are healthy. We are both very thankful to the ACVO, the Diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists, and sponsors who help make such an important event happen.

❤ Wags,

Junebug

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Margeaux and Junebug, A Team!

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.
Enjoy!
❤ Wags,
Junebug
__
 
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 grieved.
 
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.
 
Warmly,
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Junebug, the Guide Dog and the Snow

Junebug in harness, standing in the snow.

Have you ever wondered what it looks like when a guide dog works in the snow?

Here’s a video of me yesterday, guiding my mom safely on the snowy sidewalk to her transportation. The video is filmed from mom’s perspective looking down at me.I’m sporting my hot pink winter jacket and am wearing booties.

Aren’t I doing good at work?

You’ll notice that I come to a stop once we get to the intersecting sidewalks. I then wait for mom to tell me which way to go. Yeah, unfortunately guide dogs are not a GPS.

Where we go depends upon the commands our handlers give us (i.e. Junebug left, Junebug right, Junebug halt). It’s a step by step process and the two have to work together. This is why they call a guide dog and their handler a team.

It’s pretty neat, don’t you think?

I love my job and think my mom and I are a PAWesome team!

Junebug standing in the snow with her toy is next to her.

Remember me mentioning in previous blog posts/videos about the importance of balancing guide dog work with play time? Once we got home from mom’s appointment, she took me outside to play in the snow.

It was fun, well sort of. I was raised by two fantastic puppy raisers in Southern California. I definitely prefer the warm sunshine and playing in the Pacific Ocean than the snow, by far any day.

Tomorrow we are supposed to get sub zero temperatures. Brrrr, that’s too cold. It looks like I’ll be California dreaming.

❤ Wags,
Junebug

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Dog Day Anniversary 2015

Junebug sitting up in front of her mom who is sitting on a chair.

It was Dog Day at Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) four years ago from today. It was the day my mom and I first met.

I remember the moment if it were yesterday.

It was February 16, 2011. My GDB trainer brought me to meet my mom in her campus dorm room. She handed my leash (which was attached to my collar) over to my mom who then began crying happy tears.

It was the beginning of our partnership.

This is the first photo (and the prelude of a bazillion more) 🙂 taken of the two of us. I am her first guide dog. In this photo I am a few months shy of two years old.

❤ Wags,
Junebug

*Note: Dog Day is a day filled with emotions. It is a special day for any handler. It is the day a guide dog first meets their blind/visually impaired partner. Although the guide dog is fully trained, the first time handler is not. At GDB, the two spend several more weeks at the school in class training together. Generally returning handlers getting a new guide dog spend slightly less time.

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Throwback Thursday: Blind Conference, FL

Pascal (black Lab to the far left) and Rica (tiny black Lab to the far right). I’m the yellow Lab in the middle.

Throwback to July 2011. I was two years old and it was just four months into my career as a working guide dog for the blind.

My mom and I had attended a blind conference in Florida.

It was there that I guided mom around thousands of blind people and their white canes. What a challenge! Do you think you could do it if you were a dog? Well, I had a bit of training from my raisers and Guide Dogs for the Blind, so that certainly helped.

It was indeed a challenge, but one that I aced with PAWride!

I met many other working guides there as well including the three featured in the photos here: Pascal (black Lab), Rica (tiny black Lab), and Bambi (now a retired Guiding Eyes for the Blind black Lab).

Guide dogs Pascal (black lab), Rica (black Lab), Bambi (black Lab) and me PAWrtying in the hotel room.

It was so much fun because in the evenings after work we had play dates together. We got to be off harness in the hotel room and and act like the young pups we were. We behaved, but sure had a PAWrty!

Such a fond memory.

💗 Wags,
Junebug

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Junebug Stops at the Grocery

Junebug guiding Margeaux down the grocery store isle. | © 2015

My friends, the other day, at the Trader Joe’s (grocery), I prevented a mass collision of all kinds of dramatic sorts.

Let me explain.

Junebug, stopping for the grocery carts. | © 2015

This past Sunday morning I was guiding my mom into the store. At the same time, a clerk was pushing in a line of stacked back-to-back carts. My mom was oblivious to them. I however, was not. I remembered my training from Guide Dogs for the Blind. I came to a sudden stop when I concluded there would not be enough time for me to guide my mom further forward without us being run down.

My coming to a sudden stop was a que to my mom that we had an obstacle of some kind in our way. She saw with her peripheral vision (her central vision is impaired) a red line and heard the sound of the carts. Mom realized what I had just done for her— that this Bug came to her rescue once again, wags.

The clerk stopped at the same time I did. He was thoroughly impressed with my guide dog skills.

Are you impressed, too?

Junebug guiding Margeaux at the grocery store. | © 2015

After that, I went on to guide my mom to shop for her groceries. We were shopping with a store clerk. My moms visual impairment prevents her from being able to see to read print. I do a lot of things for my mom, but I leave the reading up to her human  assistants. I guided  mom to the stores customer service desk where she requested help shopping. The clerk helped her by reading to her the prices of items, ingredients, and etc.

I listened to my mom as I guided her through the store and she gave me directions to “follow,” “Junebug, left,” and “Junebug, right.” I guided her around poles and other peoples carts. The cool thing is with me as her transportation, unless she sees these things in her peripheral vision, she doesn’t even know they are there. You got it, I guide her right around them. Safely, of course. How cool is that? My mom says it makes for a smooth ride, wags.

My favorite isle at the grocery, paws down, is the dog food/treat/toy isle. I always make a premeditated effort to take a trip down this section.

Lastly I guided my mom to the checkout counter. She used her knowledge of the stores layout and her ears to direct me to the general area. She then gave me the command to “find the checkout.” And, I found it for her, wags!

My mom said she is so grateful and thankful for the extra independence having me as her guide gives her.

This Bug has skills. If I’m guiding and it’s not safe to continue, I’ll stop in the name of love. Admittedly, part of that might be a little self-preservation. 😉

When we got home, mom put up the groceries and proceeded to give me a great big tummy rub. They are the BEST, ever. While she was rubbing my tummy, I couldn’t keep my tail from wagging (see video). I was a proud Bug.

Junebug holds her new stuffing free bunny toy in her mouth.| © 2015

Oh oh oh, and guess what? That evening, my mom bought me a new toy. She bought me a stuffing free bunny rabbit. It’s soft, crinkly, and squeaks. I LOVE it!

Here’s the truth. The truth is, I love my mom. We are one PAWsome team. I love doing a good job and I am proud to be a guide dog for the blind.

Wags,
Junebug

* Note from my mom, Margeaux: Thank you for following my guide dog, Junebug’s adventures. I am an advocate, motivational speaker and artist. I also happen to be partially blind/visually impaired. Please feel free to visit my site margeauxgray.com  If interested in contacting me and or booking me (and Junebug of course, too!) for your event, please click here and fill out the contact form. I will reply to your email in which I’ll attach a speakers request form and an honorarium and travel guidelines document.

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Bug Wisdom Wednesday

2015/01/img_3994.jpg

Today is #BugWisdomWednesdsy! Today has been a most beautiful day to guide my mom. This afternoon when I was out guiding her, the sweet Kentucky sunshine warmed my whiskers. It made me think of a quote that I love.

Turn your face toward the sun and the shadows will fall behind you.
– Maori Prover

My mom told me I am her sunshine.

Wags,
Junebug

[Image: A photo of me shot from the ground up. It shows me in harness from the shoulders to the head. I am looking towards the sun.]

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