Letters from our Alumni

Published in: Update - Issue 1 - 2014 »   
Jeff stands outside in dark clothing in the snow with his right side to the camera. Leader Dog Gracie, a yellow lab, is on a leash in front of Jeff. Her front paws are lifted off the ground

One of the most common questions I am asked about my Leader Dog Gracie is does she ever get to be just a dog. Yesterday I was on the ice with Gracie playing fetch and believe me she plays as hard as she works. The amazing thing is I could come off the ice and put her harness on and, like flipping a switch, she takes care of me. I have had her for almost a year and a half and it still brings a tear to my eye thinking about how awesome she is!

Jeff Hawkins - Facebook post on December 19, 2013



Brian walks toward the camera on a sidewalk in front of a brick campus building. Leader Dog Armor, a black lab, is leading Brian

Thank you for your continued support. This is not an easy transition for me, seeing as my parent’s dog is always around me. Although their dog is nothing like Armor, it makes me miss him even more. I still keep his personal tag in my wallet, and made a leather cane holster with a paw print on it. He did his job... I just wish it wasn’t over yet. He helped pull me out of my shell and gave me the courage to go out and participate in different things that I never would have done without him. Armor has made me more outgoing and social, more independent, and less scared to travel. I am starting a new chapter in my life, and it’s very difficult to imagine doing so without Armor. But he gave me the skills to do this on my own.

I’m not meaning to write this to make you feel sad, but I want to thank you for everything Leader Dog has given me. A dog, a friend, independence, and the opportunity to grow up and show me the possibilities that lie ahead for me. Five years was way too short, but I guess everything has a reason or purpose for why it is.

Thank you,
Brian Celusnak

Note: Brian recently retired LD Armor due to his own health issues. Armor now lives with Brian’s sister.

Jonathan stands behind a table wearing a dark jacket and hat. He is holding his white cane and smiling. Next to him on the table is the Stanley Cup

I want to thank Leader Dogs for the Blind for all they taught me and the confidence that I was given from the Orientation & Mobility program. Next week I will be graduating from the Illinois Business Enterprise Program for the Blind. As of next week I will be a blind entrepreneur, which will allow me to operate my own vending, retail or cafeteria.

[For] most of my training I had to travel around Chicago by myself walking up and down streets and riding city buses and the subway system to get from place to place to fill vending machines or to go to retail stores and work. Because of the training that I received from Leader Dogs for the Blind, I was able to travel by myself with confidence that I could do it.

I just want Leader Dogs for the Blind to know that they have been a big part in helping me get back to the workforce and to know that I can do anything I want to do as long as I put my mind into it.

Please know that I plan to be back to Leader Dogs for the Blind after I have been placed into a facility somewhere and am ready to make the next step toward getting my own Leader Dog. Again thanks for everything.

Jonathan Brayfield

Steve and two of his young daughters in their living room, looking at a computer screen that shows LDB Client Yaiza

The day after Christmas my family enjoyed video chatting with Leader Dog Olive (the first puppy we raised for Leader Dog) and her partner, Yaiza, all the way from Catalonia, Spain! Being a part of Leader Dogs for the Blind has taught our family so much. My children are learning a life of service to others and getting a chance to meet wornderful people on the other side of the world! My 9-year-old is even learning Spanish! Feliz Navidad!

Allison & Steve Catrell - Facebook post on December 29, 2013