The Gift of Freedom and Independence!

This Christmas I am celebrating many lovely things in my life, a good job, a wonderful marriage, a loving family, and a place to call home. I am also celebrating something else very special this Christmas. The gift of freedom and independence. Something that I strive to give to all my OT clients, I have found for myself. This is through the partnership with a Guide Dog.

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On December 5, 2015, I graduated from Guide Dogs for the Blind with my enthusiastic, 68b, black Labrador Guide Dog named Nabisco. He is one of the best things that has come into my life. I always thought I could walk fast before my white cane, and even faster and safer with my white cane, but the speed, freedom and relaxation of traveling with Nabisco as my mobility partner is unsurpassable. I feel so much safer navigating the streets of Portland and through my daily life as an occupational therapist and independent woman. As with any new mobility tool or way of life, there is always a learning curve and we are learning to work together as a team, but I am so impressed with his eagerness to work and please and his intelligence. He is such a smart dog and he takes his job of keeping me safe very seriously. I love him more than words can explain and he gives me so much.

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As a former puppy raiser for Guide Dogs for the Blind, I know the dedication that it takes to raise these puppies and pass them off for formal training. I know the power and emotion that comes with presenting them to their blind partner on stage at graduation, but it was an absolutely amazing experience of being on the other end of the leash receiving a Guide Dog on stage at graduation. Everything has come full circle and it was a beautiful thing. I am so thankful to Nabisco’s puppy raisers! It is so amazing to me that Nabisco was raised on a farm with livestock and has been exposed to people with disabilities. What a perfect match for my lifestyle? He fits me so well in so many ways.

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I had the most amazing experience in training at Guide Dogs for the Blind. I lived in the dorms of their Oregon Campus for 2 weeks where I was able to spend dedicated time learning to work with Nabisco. I shared this experience with 3 other wonderful classmates who came from all walks of life and lifestyles and it was so great to get to share in this experience with them and we all did so well and supported each other so much. I have even stayed in touch with them since we have gotten home and it is wonderful to continue that support. The trainers and staff at Guide Dogs for the Blind are truly amazing and they would do anything to see us succeed. I am so thankful to all of them.

As Nabisco and I are building our relationship, I am amazed at his intelligence. Just the other day we were leaving Timberline Lodge and headed back to our car through the snowy parking lot. Nabisco took us directly to our car! I can’t believe he remembered exactly where it was and was able to navigate that environment in the cold and snow when his sound, smell, and sight cues were dampened. Truly amazing!

I have gotten to have Nabisco in the schools with me working as an OT. It has been really fun! All of my fellow co-workers and students enjoy having him there and we are providing a good learning opportunity for all the students. I enjoy telling them what Nabisco does for me and answering all of their questions. Kids are so insightful! One of my fellow OT’s and I wrote a social story about Nabisco to share with my students when we return from break. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Nabisco and I as an occupational therapy team and as a guide dog team!

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