Why choose a guide dog?
Because the independence and companionship gained is transformational.
Our Paws for Independence program matches our well-trained, selectively bred guide dogs with visually impaired individuals. Most of these individuals arrive on campus with a bit of apprehension. They face the unknown; they’re concerned about leaving their cane behind and trusting a dog they’ve not yet met. They’re concerned about temporarily living away from home. But over the next 26 days, we witness a remarkable change in confidence, skills, and positivity. And later, we hear back from graduates whose lives have been transformed.
New levels of independence
Our graduations are rarely held without tears as our students leave our tropical campus with a new guide by their side. The big changes are obvious: students can travel independently, walk safely, avoid obstacles, and cross streets with confidence. They can go to more places more often without waiting for a sighted guide. By the time they leave our campus, they’ve navigated busy sidewalks, all kinds of curbs, crosswalks, airports, buses, stairs, elevators, the beach, stores, malls, and more.
New levels of exercise (optional, of course)
Some graduates have shared how their guide dogs make a big difference in their quality of life. Some explained how they can now choose to walk at a brisker pace, often for the first time in years. Their guide dogs not only watch for low-lying obstacles; they’re trained to avoid higher obstacles such as tree branches or low signs up to about six feet in the air. Those individuals fond of exercise particularly enjoy the freedom to move more quickly, when desired. (Of course, we carefully match our students’ lifestyle with a dog’s pace and gait, so our senior citizens and more sedentary students don’t have to worry about a too-fast dog.)
New companionship and crowd maneuverability
Sighted individuals rarely think about how vision facilitates social interactions. (Next time you’re at a party, sit in a chair and close your eyes. How’s the party now?) Graduates have shared that they no longer feel alone in a crowd, because their dog becomes a conversation starter. They’ve shared stories of formerly walking in public and having people trip over their cane, and then later walking in public with their very visible dog, who not only guides them but also acts as a protective barrier in a crowd. For our graduates who live alone, their dog becomes a constant companion. For our graduates who live with families, their dog becomes a beloved family member as well as a loyal, hardworking service dog.
“The best decision I ever made!”
Choosing a guide dog is a big decision. When we hear from our graduates, we hear over and over again: “It’s the best decision I’ve ever made! I wish I hadn’t waited so long to get my dog.”