The second voice in Voices of the Leader Dog Community is Leader Dog Client Andrew “Andy” Stone. He has an MBA from ITT Technical Institute and works in Supplier Managements – Galleys and Monuments for The Boeing Company. Together with his wife, Andy currently has one retired Leader Dog, two cats and a horse. He received his first guide dog, Leader Dog Ingrid (pictured with him above), in 2008 and his second dog, Leader Dog Rayna, in 2016.
Thinking back to when I got my first Leader Dog, Ingrid, I was at a really different place in my life. It wasn’t the best of places; it was when my vision started to get bad and I wasn’t handling it very well. I wanted to have a companion with me all the time and getting Ingrid really made a huge difference in my mental state at that time and it made me more independent to get out more. I didn’t get her to be outdoors more because then I was relying on friends and family to help me out with stuff. I was still in Michigan and living with my dad at the time.
Getting Ingrid gave me the confidence to step outside of my circle. So, when I was looking for jobs, I was looking all over the country because it was around the housing crash and I wasn’t getting any interviews in Michigan.
I’ve always liked being out-of-doors. I used to camp in the backyard with my brother and sister when we were kids and then when we got older, we went camping in Northern Michigan and the UP. When I got the job offer in the Seattle area, I knew it had way better transportation than where I grew up in Flint, Michigan. But I am passionate about getting out and enjoying the outdoors, that is one of the biggest reasons that I took the job offer, Boeing is fantastic and really close to the mountains and rivers and campground. However, when I moved out there, I knew nobody.
Fishing – I always liked fishing even as a little kid. In the early 90s I had a really cool opportunity to go to Alaska with my dad to visit family. My great-uncle was a fly fisherman and he taught us how to do it, and it just took off for me.
I’ve always has retinitis pigmentosa, but we didn’t really know about it until I was in my late teens/early 20s. My whole life I’ve had difficulty seeing in the dark and now I have a little central vision that is still fairly good when I’m super close to something. In order to tie flies onto the line when I’m fishing, I have glasses with magnifiers in them. There were many times when I had my first Leader Dog, Ingrid, that she and I would go fishing on our own. I’d tie her leash to a tree, and she’d wade in the water while I fished.
Over the years I have run some 10Ks but now that I’m in my 40s I’m starting to have knee issues. But I want to stay active as I age so I currently do CrossFit 4‒5 days a week for 1/2 hour at a time. One of the best, and most tiring, experiences I had was completing a Spartan race several years ago with a group of friends. The race was 10 miles on hiking trails with obstacles to go through along the route and if you fail an obstacle you have to do 30 burpees (if you don’t know what a burpee is, you can Google it, but I can tell you they aren’t fun). I was able to complete the race by using a running tether or holding the hands of one of my teammates. We weren’t trying to go for time, we were trying to finish the race in one piece.
As I get older, staying active is beginning to include traveling to new places. When my wife and I were planning our wedding and honeymoon in 2018, we wanted to go somewhere interesting. We asked people of places they have been to that they liked and threw all the locations into a hat. We drew out one piece of paper and ended up in Malaysia. That was my first experience going outside the U.S. (besides Canada).
Malaysia was beautiful and interesting. They had a lot of accommodations for visually impaired people around the city including tracks that you follow with your cane in the train stations. I couldn’t take my Leader Dog Rayna with us because she’d have to quarantine for two weeks. So, we boarded her at a facility that sent us pictures of Rayna running and playing with other dogs, we were beginning to think she wouldn’t want to come home when we returned.
We still have the hat filled with locations and will try to visit the others down the road.
Since I met my wife, I’ve been hiking a lot. We haven’t hiked much this year because my wife has an ACL injury and we’re really following safe COVID procedures. I have hiked with my dog Rayna over the years but have also hiked some using a cane. I didn’t have to do any special training with Rayna, but I did use a Gentle Leader in the beginning because the woods provide many sniffing opportunities for Labs. Once Rayna was trained against sniffing, I didn’t use the Gentle Leader as much. I was always amazed when coming to makeshift stairs on a trail, Rayna would stop just like we were stopping at a curb.
I’m using my last post to shamelessly spotlight our fur-kids. In addition to Rayna, we have two cats, Amelia and Cortes, and last July we bought a horse named Breeze. Breeze is actually a horse that my wife grew up with when she was volunteering at a Girl Scout camp 20 years ago. We are currently working on getting her back into top riding shape. My wife is also trying to teach me on how to ride.
The cats came into my life along with my wife who I met when I had Ingrid, my first Leader Dog, and the cats had not been around dogs. At first it was a constant rotation of moving the animals around to different rooms until they got used to each other. Now, with Rayna, they really seem to miss her when we take her somewhere.
We would like to thank Andy Stone for sharing his passion for getting out and enjoying the outdoors with us. Thanks to YOU for joining us today to listen to a Voice of the Leader Dog Community!