I was born in Minnesota and lived in California and Wisconsin before making my way to Michigan after college. Unfortunately, my dog passed away after I retired from a career in government contracting. I thought about getting another dog, but also wanted to enjoy the benefits of retirement. I wanted the freedom to live and travel without the constraints that come with pet ownership. I also wanted to give back to my community. After talking to a neighbor about her volunteer work at Leader Dogs for the Blind, it seemed to be the perfect opportunity to give me the “dog fix” and community service I wanted. Although I had lived in Rochester Hills for many years, I admit that all that time Leader Dog was just another reference point on Rochester Road (much like a store or restaurant). Little did I know that I was about to find out it was a true jewel hidden in plain sight.
I started volunteering almost seven years ago. What I didn’t realize was that once you become a part of an organization like Leader Dog and see the good they do for their clients, it “gets into your bones” or, as I was reminded recently by a fellow volunteer, it really “gets into your heart.” In addition to my canine support assistant role, I also volunteer as a docent and instructor support.
As a canine support assistant, I provide companionship and stress relief for the dogs in training and that gives me my “dog fix.” As an instructor support volunteer, I assist the instructors on and off campus in a variety of settings as they train the dogs to become Leader Dogs. As a docent, I conduct tours of the campus for the public to help them understand and appreciate Leader Dog’s mission.
My time spent at Leader Dog has fulfilled my desire to bring another dog home. I really love dogs and I feel that my volunteer work makes their journey to becoming a guide dog better and less stressful. All of my current and past volunteer positions have allowed me to see the complete arc of Leader Dog’s operation. More importantly, it has allowed me to see the impact Leader Dog has on people’s lives.
It’s funny that I came to Leader Dog for a “dog fix” because I wanted the freedom to live and travel without constraints, which is the same goal Leader Dog has for their clients.