Voices of the Leader Dog Community: Clients

Today’s Voices of the Leader Dog Community is a special one! Meet nine of our clients from the past several months and find out more about them in their own words.

Sandy S. from Wisconsin with LD Mira

Sandy S sits smiling with yellow lab Mira in harness seated next to herTell me a little about yourself.

I miss my career, which was driving a semi. I drove all over the country, but I had to stop in 2014. I had to stop my business and now I run a storage facility. I was the first woman mail carrier in my hometown in 1969. I was a private investigator in Canada for 3‒4 years. This is just a new adventure.

How did you feel when you first met Mira?

I was delighted, truly delighted. I have some sight, so I was very interested in getting a light-colored dog, I was very pleased. I live in an old country house and there are a lot of dark areas, and a nice bright yellow is perfect.

What most surprised you about working with a Leader Dog?

I think the training is very substantial, which is making my job of learning how to work with her so much better. We did a night walk, and I really have a problem at night but Mira did a superb job of getting me around all the things that I would have normally crashed into. 

Lydia O. from Michigan with LD Piper

Lydia sits smiling next to black lab Piper in her Leader Dog harnessTell me a little about yourself.

I am in the process of going back to school. I went from perfect vision to no useable vision within a matter of a couple of days. Initially, I went to school for human resources but then lost my vision. So, I am planning on doing some counseling now.  Building up on my skills and relearning how to do things differently.

How do you anticipate that having a Leader Dog will impact your life?

I’m already more comfortable walking with a dog.  I was already independent in my neighborhood with a cane, but Piper helps me walk at a more normal pace. She helps me walk straight, which is life changing when it comes to street crossing. I used my cane skills to recover from veering off, but to not have to recover from veering is better.

Tell me a little about your experience at Leader Dog.

I am blown away by how great Leader Dog is and everything that they provide. But the biggest thing is the people. Everyone is so nice, so genuinely nice here.

Jackie M. from Michigan with LD Nico

Jackie sits in front of a light grey photo backdrop, smiling, next to black lab Nico in his Leader Dog harnessHow did you feel when you first met Nico?

I was sort of anxious and impatient and excited—all the things. He came right in and gave me kisses and got right in my face. We bonded instantly. It was better than Christmas.

What most surprised you about working with a Leader Dog?

Dog versus cane—the cane is very tactile so you have to pay attention to surfaces for feedback, but with the dog my tactile feedback is now just through my feet. I don’t miss being cognizant of all the things between point A and point B to just get to the door when using a cane.

I always thought that I didn’t need a dog, but I should have done this sooner. I’ve been alone through all of COVID, I felt very limited, and the world was closing in and my independence was going away. Even O&M helped, Leader Dog is a game changer.

David K. from Missouri with LD Nigel

David looks downward, hugging black lab Nigel sitting next to himTell me a little about yourself.

I’m a retired teacher, I taught everything from kindergarten to junior college. Most of the time I taught art classes, which is funny because now I can’t see any art. I am the only blind school board member in the state of Missouri and it makes me feel worthwhile.

How do you anticipate that having a Leader Dog will impact your life?

Having Nigel will help me to be more mobile in my little community. I can literally walk anywhere and do it more safely with his guidance. I hope to be a role model in my community and encourage other individuals to be willing to accept their necessary types of assistance. I already have two or three speaking engagements booked with people who want me to come share what I have experienced at LDB. 

Jennifer R. from Texas with LD Mosby

Jennifer smiles with both her arms around yellow lab Mosby. Mosby is seated next to her in Leader Dog harnessTell me a little about yourself.

I was born deaf and then I became blind at age 14. I have Ushers Syndrome Type 2. My first language is American Sign Language (ASL) and tactile signing. I often interpret for my local Lighthouse for the Blind. I am a workaholic. I love to go do whatever the church is doing. I love activities like walking and going to the lake and I like to travel. I’m a bit of a wild girl who likes to jump and take the risk. I love to do hard work, I come up with lots of ideas and ways to do tasks creatively.

Tell me about your experiences with Leader Dog.

I love Leader Dog. The people, the team, the volunteers, they are amazing. Everyone is very patient, they teach, they guide me around. The team that works with us and the dogs [the guide dog mobility instructors] are amazing. I was incredibly shocked by everything. 

Jeffrey B. from Pennsylvania with LD Mack

Jeffrey looks left toward Leader Dog Mack, a black lab seated next to him. Jeffrey is holding the front of Mack's harness with one hand and hugging Mack with the other armWhat most surprised you about working with a Leader Dog?

I was surprised by how loveable and playful Mack is. He listens and does so much. He saved us when we were out walking past a parking lot and a van pulled out in front of us and he stopped us. He saved my life. He is definitely my buddy.

How do you anticipate that having Mack is going to impact your life?

I anticipate being out walking around, seeing my grandkids. Lately, I’ve just kept myself busy and now I’ve got more motivation.

Danny M. from Texas with LD Violet

Danny smiles with one arm around black lab Leader Dog violet seated next to him in harnessTell me a little about yourself.

I was in martial arts for over 40 years and have two black belts in different forms of martial arts. I have four college degrees, I’m a veteran, and I worked for the Department of Defense and the Department of the Navy.

How did you hear about LDB?

My doctor at the VA (Veterans Affairs) was a member of the Lions club. He asked me why don’t I get a guide dog? I told him that I’m not totally blind, and he said you don’t have to be. Next, I asked him about how much it would cost, and he told me there was no cost!

Imanni G. from Florida with LD Lumi

Imanni smiles with her arm around yellow lab Leader Dog Lumi, seated next to Imanni in harnessHow do you anticipate having a Leader Dog is going to impact your life?

Having Lumi will give me endless possibilities. I won’t have to wait for someone to come and take me places, and I will be safe and secure. People won’t have to check up on me to make sure I make it home safely. This will help me tremendously as I continue to lose more of my sight.

Why did you choose to come to LDB?

I have waited a long time for a guide dog. I was all set to come here in 2020, but COVID kept pushing it back. [Through all the time] the Leader Dog team was always checking in with me.

Tim K. from Canada with LD Ulric

Tim looks toward the camera with his arm around black lab Leader Dog Ulric, seated next to Tim in harnessTell me about Ulric.

He is got lots of personality and loves to play. He is dopey in the morning, but then he wakes up and is very wiggly. He moves at my pace, which I really appreciate because I move fast. Also, he isn’t easily distracted.

How do you anticipate having a Leader Dog is going to impact your life?

Ulric makes it so I don’t have to rely on others so much. I will have more confidence with him than I would with a cane. Even if I just need to go get my hair cut, I can just grab the harness and go. [Where I live] we have winter for five months or more of the year, so a dog is much easier to work in the snow than a cane.

Would you like to write a future installment of Voices of the Leader Dog Community? If so, please let us know! All emails will be answered, but we can’t promise everyone will have the opportunity to participate.

Read more about our Voices of the LDB Community initiative.


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