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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TO THE MARKET

Jane and Margeaux

Jane Mosbacher Morris, Founder and CEO of TO THE MARKET (left) with Margeaux Gray and Junebug. | Photo credit: Chelsea Hudson Photography

Margeaux Gray, my mom, survived a traumatic childhood. However, she has not let the trauma define her. Today she is passionate about advocating against the injustice that was done to her. She has come upon many obstacles such as living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and blindness, but sees these simply as hurdles. They may have slowed her down a bit, but she has not let them stop her. She has found a way around. My mom is an advocate, motivational speaker, and artist. Through her voice and art she is educating, empowering, and working to create the change she envisions for the world.

Part of my job as my mom’s guide dog is to guide her to all of her advocacy and speaking engagements. Last Friday I flew with my mom to Washington D.C. The weather was beautiful. The warm blanket of sunshine rested on my fur as I guided her from our hotel to speak at TO THE MARKET‘s “Sip, Shop, and Be Inspired” pop-up event.

TO THE MARKET | Survivor-Made Goods | Photo credit: Chelsea Hudson Photography

TTM2 TO THE MARKET | Survivor-Made Goods | Photo credit: Chelsea Hudson Photography

TO THE MARKET, founded by Jane Mosbacher Morris (CEO), is a retailer that sales survivor-made goods crafted by artisans who have lived through abuse, conflict, and disease. Their mission, “combines the powers of commerce and storytelling to empower the world’s most courageous survivor populations, in the belief that resilience is more powerful than suffering.” I definitely recommend that you check the online store out.

My mom is on TO THE MARKET‘s advisory board and I supposed that means by proxy I am as well. Personally, if you ask me, I think I can offer some pretty dog gone good advice. 😉

I am proud of the work my mom is doing. We are a team and I love being her guide dog as well as a co-advocate on her mission to make a difference.

At the event my mom spoke about action and freedom.

Two things my mom stressed in her speech was:

“With thoughtful action, we can all make a difference.”

“Freedom is not black and white. It is a kaleidoscope of different colors, shapes, and sizes.”

The big laugh of the night came when mom was trying on shoes which were being sold at TO THE MARKET‘s pop-up shop. After trying on a few pairs, she went to put back on the shoes she came to the event wearing. Something wasn’t feeling right. After a minute of trying to find her right shoe, she suddenly realized the problem. My mom had worn two different shoes and they were both lefts! How funny is that? Needless to say, we all had a good laugh.

Sometimes, my mom’s blind girl problems ultimately work out in her favor. The Root Collective was their selling shoes and mom left with a beautiful pair Dusty Cayenne Diamond ballet flats.

On our flight home my mom was reflecting on her gratitude for independence. I was comfortably resting my head on her shoes. She told me she loved me and thanked me for giving her another whole level of freedom. She said that liberty can even come in the form of a 62 pound yellow Labrador guide dog named Junebug.

Junebug

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International Guide Dog Day

Junebug and Margeaux. Margeaux has her arm around Junebug, who is in harness, and is giving her a kiss.

Junebug and Margeaux. Margeaux has her arm around Junebug, who is in harness, and is giving her a kiss.

Turn up the music and let’s celebrate. Today is International Guide Dog Day!

When I was growing up and being raised by my guide dog puppy raisers, I had no idea just how cool being a guide dog really would be. Now that I am one, I can tell you that it’s a PAWesome job.

Check out this video of some guide dog awesomeness in action. My mom recorded this back in 2013. It’s really cool she wanted to record an example of my work, and she sure got to. What this video captures is an example of one of the many things I was trained to do at Guide Dogs for the Blind, my alumni. I was taught to slow down, come to a stop, and slightly angle my body in front of my mom’s legs. This is to alert my mom that there is an object in our way.

Pretty PAWesome isn’t it?

Junebug and Fee-Fi-Fo-Frog, her stuffed frong toy.

Junebug and Fee-Fi-Fo-Frog, her stuffed frog toy.

In past posts I have shared about the importance of balancing work with play. It’s very important, because a guide dog’s work can be intense. When I’m off-duty I enjoy playing with all my toys. I recently acquired a new squeaky toy that I’ve been playing keep away with. I will be honest; I’m really good at this game and my mom, not so much. I win just about every time and shh… don’t tell her, sometimes I let her win. 😛

This is another glimpse into my many adventures as a guide dog.

Junebug, in harness, wearing a pink and sparkly cowgirl hat.

Junebug, in harness, wearing a pink and sparkly cowgirl hat.

I’d like to tip my cowgirl hat to all the PAWesome guide dogs and their parents out there (like my mom and me, wags!) pups in training, retired, and to all who’ve passed. Also, a huge woof-out to everyone from guide dog puppy raisers, donors, trainers, vets, kennel staff, volunteers, and etc. who help a guide dog on the path to her or his career. Thank you for all you do. And guide dogs, thank you for your service.

❤ 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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