Meet Chris and guide dog Kevin
At just 47, Chris McNamee was forced to retire from a manufacturing business in Wisconsin when retinitis pigmentosa took his vision.
“You reach a point living with vision loss that you can’t walk safely anymore. My ‘aha’ moment came when I was a business executive attending a meeting in a building I’d never been in before. There was a pillar in the hallway that I didn’t see. I walked head on into it and cut myself above my eyebrow and there was blood everywhere. People were freaking out, shouting, ‘Call 911!’”
“The injury to my pride was far worse than my head. I wanted to crawl into a hole. I had to leave the meeting for the ER where I got five stitches in my forehead. I knew I had to make a change.”
For almost ten years, a yellow Labrador named Max gave Chris the freedom, confidence, and mobility to travel everywhere with his wife, Lynn, including walking his daughter Leah down the aisle at her wedding. Max retired in June 2016, and now Chris is paired with Kevin, AKA “Mr. Wiggles,” a very affectionate yellow Labrador who “loves belly rubs, is very alert, and spot-on when working,” according to Chris.
“I had a miserable time navigating with my cane. People would trip over it and tell ME to watch where I’m going. Now with a guide dog, they see me coming and they make a way for me. And then they say, ‘Isn’t he beautiful!’ or ‘Can I pet him?’ That gives me the opportunity to be an ambassador for the school.
Chris is delighted to have full confidence and trust in Kevin, as he did with Max, and can’t wait for his children and grandchildren to get to know him, too. Already, Kevin is sleeping contentedly on Chris’s side of the bed, next to his good friend Max.
“My dog is so much more than my guide; he is an extension of myself. I am lost without him.”