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Volunteering at Leader Dog

I started volunteering with Leader Dogs for the Blind in fall of 2022. As an Oakland County native, I surprisingly didn’t know about Leader Dog growing up. My first exposure was a few years ago when I was living in Chicago and my roommate (also from Oakland County) got a career changed dog from Leader Dogs for the Blind. Her name is Parker—she’s a yellow lab mix and she was (and still is!) one of the sweetest girls ever!

Olivia smiles in a selfie with a yellow lab lying its head on her chest
Parker and me

In the coming years, I learned about other guide dog programs on documentaries like “Pick of the Litter” and “Dogs.” These shows provided a perspective I had never seen before when it comes to the guide dog community. I was so moved by the way that a guide dog could enrich someone’s life and provide them with so much freedom and independence. It was beautiful to hear the perspectives of the clients, and I was really touched by the support that these guide dog programs provided.

Olivia crouching on dirt path with trees in the background. She is kissing an Australian cattle dog sitting next to her.Just before the pandemic, my now husband and I got our first dog, Milo, an Australian cattle dog mix. Milo is a working breed, and he impresses me every day with his energy, his willingness to learn, and his big brain. It wasn’t until we got Milo that I truly realized the profound impact that being a dog owner can have on someone. Our dog’s ability to pick up on our emotions and to bring so much joy into our lives never ceases to amaze me! We adopted another dog, Daisy (beagle mix!), in 2022 and our lives were changed for the better once again.

I moved back to Ferndale from Chicago in the fall of 2021 and was (and still am) working from home full-time. While the flexibility is wonderful, I found that I was looking for some additional fulfillment outside of the workspace. In my search, I came across Leader Dogs for the Blind, and I immediately knew that I wanted to be a part of Leader Dog’s amazing mission.

Olivia's torso and legs are visible, covered in yellow dog hair, and a yellow lab is wagging its tail near her legs. She is seated and the camera is looking down.I now volunteer with the breeding dogs, and I absolutely love it. I feel so honored to play even a small role in the journey to get clients the guide dogs that they need. I love all the dogs—the playful ones, the chill ones, the excited ones, the slobbery ones, and the adorable ones (okay, they’re all adorable). I usually only spend time with the older dogs, but recently got to help feed the Future Leader Dog puppies on my shift—what a highlight!

I may sometimes leave covered head to toe in fur and my dogs may sniff me for 30 minutes every time I come home from a shift, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Overall, I’m very thankful to be a part of Leader Dogs for the Blind and look forward to continuing to support their amazing mission!