National Guide Dog Month
September is National Guide Dog Month. To celebrate, I’m partnering with Natural Balance (the maker of premium-quality pet food) and Guide Dogs for the Blind (a non-profit charitable organization that raises and trains exceptional guide dogs to serve the blind and visually impaired) to spread awareness about the amazing bond between people who are blind and their guide dogs.
People who are blind or visually impaired and have chosen to work with guide dogs for mobility have incredible and inspiring stories to share about their adventures together. In addition to providing enhanced mobility for their handlers, these guide dogs can also be a social bridge, opening a world of possibilities for friendship and human connection, all while showcasing the incredible capabilities of man’s best friend.
Over on the Natural Balance website, you will find outstanding stories from the Top Human-Canine Teams Who Make Us Believe. These nine teams are prime examples of the amazing partnerships possible between humans and canines. I particularly love the story of Ashleigh and her dog Yuri. I’ll share it with you here, but don’t forget to go over t0 the website to read the other stories too!
Ashleigh & Yuri
Ashleigh has been visually impaired since birth and used a cane to get around for years. She found it difficult during winter though and felt unsafe because of ice on the pavement.
With her family’s encouragement, she decided to look into getting a guide dog.
Ashleigh had grown up being terrified of dogs, but as she began researching Guide Dogs for the Blind, she was surprised to discover that their positive reinforcement philosophy matched her personal beliefs and values. She decided to go for it.
The dog assigned to her was Yuri, a beautiful Guide Dogs for the Blind-trained yellow Lab. When he first entered Ashleigh’s life, he was so excited that he couldn’t stop sneezing. Now, over two years later, they’re so connected that she can’t imagine life without him.
“Being paired with Yuri has changed my life in so many ways. In addition to being my eyes, keeping me safe, and giving me independence, he has also become my best friend—and is constantly by my side,” says Ashleigh.
Without Yuri, Ashleigh may have never developed the confidence and independence needed to fulfill her dream of living and working in New York City. She is now able to navigate the city’s fast-paced subway system every day, feeling fully safe and cared for.
Ashleigh’s story illustrates how Guide Dogs can provide enhanced mobility, as well as be a social bridge, opening a world of possibilities for friendship and human connection.
To help people like Ashleigh thrive, please consider donating to Guide Dogs to the Blind. Once there, you can also read about the other eight amazing human-canine teams. There’s no better time than National Guide Dog Month to show your support for these incredible people and their four-legged superheroes.
On a personal note, I want to share a bit of my own story.
I’m not visually impaired now, but I was born with cataracts and my vision got pretty bad for many years. I was considered legally blind. My vision has since been corrected, thankfully. But I did partner up with a German Shepherd Dog named Star. You can see a picture of me and her below with my signature.
Star and I used to run “around the block” if you can call it that in the rural area I live in. We would run 3.1 mi (5k) most every day, all year round, unless the weather was particularly bad. I remember more than one day I was happy to have her with me when another dog would come lunging out of nowhere. My Star would make them step back, keeping me safe from harm. Plus, as a female, I felt safe with running with her when there were certain men around. You know what I mean. There’s nothing quite like a German Shepherd Dog for intimidation.
I loved that girl. She lived to the ripe old age of 14 years. She died of bone cancer. Rest In Peace, Star.
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