Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

My Guide Dog Story

Why Receiving a Guide Dog in College was Right for Me
by Jessica Minneci

     Without fail, every morning around 7 AM, my guide dog Joyce's paws can be felt at the edge of my bed. Joyce loves waking up every morning, wagging her tail, and getting her kibble. Her enthusiasm and her ability to wake me up every morning allows me to face the day with a smile while being on-time for morning classes. These are just two of the many reasons why I am grateful that I decided to get a guide dog while I was in college.

   When I applied to get a dog from Guide Dogs for the Blind, I hoped that whatever dog I received would give me the confidence to travel and step outside of my comfort zone. Joyce has been that dog for me. She loves to work. More than that, Joyce is always by my side, watching my back and giving me a hand (or paw) in unfamiliar environments. With Joyce, I am bolder, more willing to travel home to Kentucky by myself or even go grocery shopping, something that I wasn't often willing to do with just my long white cane.
Guide dog Joyce sitting at Jess' feet outside
     In addition, traveling with Joyce is much smoother than using a cane. A cane hits obstacles when you pass them whereas a dog can just guide you around them. Joyce's guide work is fluid, causing me not to miss a beat while walking, trusting that she'll get us safely to where we need to go. This holds true as she assists me past sewer grates, around parked cars, and away from oncoming cars. She also leads me away from people that she doesn't like or assumes to be a threat. Since I graduated from GDB with Joyce, we have gone around campus, to the airport, to Illinois with my family, and even to a conference in St. Louis with American Printing House for the Blind. At this juncture in my life, I am traveling quite a bit, which is great for Joyce as it gives her more work to do and exposes her to new places.
    On a typical day in college, Joyce and I go to class, to club meetings, and play together. I taught her new commands such as, "Go home." Upon hearing the command, Joyce guides me to my dorm room door. On top of that, I taught her to find my friends in the cafeteria, find professors' offices and my friends' dorm room doors, and helped her memorize certain routes around campus. In fact, a while back, I got lost in a building and couldn't find the elevator. Without giving her any directions aside from, "Forward," Joyce led me to the elevator and got three pieces of kibble.
     When we are out and about, Joyce's happy tail and smiling face has caused me to converse with a lot of new people, some with whom I became really good friends. Others simply ask me about my dog: how we were matched and what work she does for me. Through talking with these people, I have found that others are fascinated by Joyce and excited to learn how they can best interact or assist a guide dog and its handler. Still, others that I encounter just smile as they see Joyce or laugh when she dream-barks during classes.
     At the end of the day, Joyce will always be my best friend. She comforts me when I'm sick, calms me down when I have test anxiety, and makes me smile even when I am in an awful mood. When none of my friends are around to eat dinner with me, I'm glad that I have Joyce laying down at my feet, keeping them warm. Likewise, when I am bogged down with work, Joyce will come by and present me with a toy. In doing this, she not only causes me to pay attention to her but also reminds me that college may contain a lot of work, but life isn't worth it without having a little fun. For this reason, I dress Joyce up for Halloween every year.  I am thankful that I have a friend like Joyce. We continue each day to grow up, have fun, and learn together.
     If you are blind or visually impaired and have enjoyed my story, I highly encourage you to consider doing some research and deciding if a guide dog is a good fit for you. The confidence, independence, and friendship that I have gained is unlike any other.

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