Meet Danielle and guide dog Gene
As a child with undiagnosed retinitis pigmentosa, Danielle Mendes thought her lack of night vision was normal. When her ophthalmologist diagnosed her at age 12, the impact didn’t mean much until adulthood when her vision loss progressed. After years of bumping into people and tripping over obstacles, she became careful and cautious while walking—until she got her first guide dog, Luckie. With Luckie retiring, Danielle looked forward to walking at a fast pace again with her new guide, Gene, a playful, boyish yellow Labrador.
Danielle enjoys the independence and speed that first Luckie and now Gene can offer, but she’s also discovered how much her dogs help in other ways. “They are more than my eyes,” she says. “I’ve had depression before, and these dogs really help me with it. They don’t give me time to go to bed and stay in depression. They take care of me and I have to take care of them,” Danielle says. “I remember when I first got pregnant and had to get rid of my medication for depression. I was laying on my bed, and my frist guide dog, Luckie, would come and grab my blanket and pull it off. It was like she was calling me to the door and saying, ‘Come on, let’s go, we need to go!'”
Danielle says she’s happier with her dog. “Really, really happy.” Back home in Deerfield Beach, Danielle’s husband and four-year-old son couldn’t wait to welcome Gene into the family.