Meet Derek and guide dog J.W.
Derek Strauch has battled juvenile diabetes since being diagnosed in 1992 at age 12. Wanting to be a “normal kid,” he didn’t take proper care of his health. By 2007 he was blind in his left eye. Failing kidneys forced him to begin dialysis in 2009, and then his right eye failed and he was legally blind by 2010. In 2011, he had kidney and pancreas transplants.
Today, Derek’s health is stable, and a yellow Labrador named J.W. has given him new energy and hope for the future. “He’s just like me in dog form,” Derek says. “He’s very playful and also very obedient and well trained. When he doesn’t need to work and is off harness as a pet, he is just all-around phenomenal.”
Back home in Dacula, Georgia, Derek attends school at the Center for the Visually Impaired and hopes to pursue a technical support job. He lives with his girlfriend and their two children, and he loves the beach and getting out in nature. J.W. helps him navigate freely, and Derek counts his blessings every day for his amazing first guide dog