At the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired South Carolina (ABVI), we are proud to offer Guide Dog Scholarships for our clients to help with veterinary visits, proper grooming and premium dog food. For many active blind individuals guide dogs are their means to independence. They are navigators, travel partners and best friends.
People may not realize the extensive work that goes into a guide dog team. As a puppy, the dog works for 12-18 months with a puppy walker working on socialization and basic training. This is followed by 6 months of advanced harness training with a professional guide dog instructor. When ready, the dog is carefully paired with a handler who will live with the dog at a center to train for 2 to 4 weeks. Kimberly Taylor, an ABVI Program Instructor and Guide Dog Handler, describes the program as the dog’s equivalent of a Ph.D.!
When it is time for a guide dog to retire, it can be emotional for everyone involved. Recently, we learned it is time for one of ABVI’s Guide Dog Scholarship recipients to retire. However, instead of thinking of it as a retirement, this guide dog handler is considering it a promotion for her beloved companion. Check out this beautifully written and sweet retirement notice we recently received from Audrey Gunter. Thank you to Audrey (and guide dog Jessie!) for letting us share this announcement.
Dear Miss Courtney and all [ABVI staff],
It’s me – Jessie, the greatest guide dog in the whole wide world! That’s what my mom says anyway. I know you remember my mom ’cause she’s always talking about how nice you folks are. I think you’re nice, too…’specially when you send me those yummy groceries. In fact, that’s one reason I’m writing you – to thank you all for the delicious dog food you’ve been sending me and for taking care of those vet bills I’ve accrued. Well, now that I think of it and all those times the vets stuck me with those needles and invaded my private parts, I’m not so sure I really liked that. But Mom said it had to be done, so I reckon I do need to show my appreciation, ‘specially since I got lots more Nylabones and toys thanks to you all paying those vet bills for me. I do like nylabones and toys…so thank you!
Another reason I’m writing is to tell you about my promotion. Mom says I’m the new Executive Director of Homeland Security now. That means I get to take care of the house and greet folks with one of my toys when they knock on the door. I can bark all I want now…’cept with this laryngeal paralysis my barker doesn’t work so good anymore. That’s alright, though ‘cuz I can lick and scratch without getting corrected.
Mom says I won’t have to go out and work in harness anymore, but I’m not so sure I like that so much. I love to work in my harness and take Mom places. I’m very careful with her and my guiding is perfect. Don’t you remember how I guided her to our table at the Christmas party in December? I was perfect-as always! I just stayed right there on my blanket by my mom’s feet until she was ready to leave! I had a great time there, too. The food smelled scrumptious, but I never get any of it. Mom told me it was good, though.
I bet you’re wondering why I’m getting such a promotion, aren’t you? Well, it seems I have a new baby brother-Bernie! He’s a yellow lab just like me-only not so handsome or seasoned. I’m not so sure about him taking my mom out, but she says it will be okay, so I guess I don’t have much choice. I’m going to watch him, though and if my mom gets hurt he’ll be in a world of trouble! I ‘spose I’ll have to share my mom with him but he’d better not mess with my nylabones or Kongs! He’d better have his own dog bowl too ‘cuz I’m not sharing my groceries with him either. Thanks to you all, I’ve gotten use to that special stuff that’s good for my sensitive tummy and he’ll just have to eat whatever he’s use to eating and leave mine alone!
I’m going to miss seeing my buddies Fonzie and Houston. We always hung out together during Dixie Land events. I guess they’ll just have to show Bernie the ropes now.
I’m really excited about my promotion and look forward to laying around the house with Aunt Laurel’s dog, Sonny. I bet you that, with all the noise and barking we make, no one will dare break into our house. That’s right! I am now in charge of Homeland Security and I’m going to do as good a job with that as I do taking care of my mom.
So, I guess you won’t get to see me anymore, Miss Courtney, but you’ll be okay. Mom says she’s going to bring Bernie in to introduce him to you guys soon. I just hope he does what he’s ‘spose to do!
Please tell all my friends there at the ABVI that I send them lots of licks and wish them well. I’ve got to go now. Mom is taking a Frosty Paw out of the freezer for us and I have to make sure Bernie doesn’t get mine! Mom can’t see too good, and she might get us mixed up.
Thanks again to you and the Board for all the good stuff you’ve given me these past 9 years. If I can do anything for you guys, just let me know!
Jessie (Best Guide Dog in the Whole Wide World – retired)