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11-18 Magdalena Scott – Serendipity Surprises

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Personal Shout-Out for Guide Dogs for the Blind by Sarah Raplee

http://welcome.guidedogs.com/ All Photo Credits
I can tell you exactly why the Heroine in my work-in-progress, BLINDSIGHT, is blind—and why her Guide Dog, Fred, shares Hero status with the story’s human Hero.
I lost sight in my right eye fourteen years ago without warning. When I went to bed, I was fully-sighted. I woke up to find a big, gray-brown splotch like thick fog in the middle of my vision in my right eye. Over the course of the day, the area grew to cover all but the extreme lower right edge of my vision.
The condition is known as NAION (Non-arteritic Anterior Ischemic Optic Neuropathy.) There is no effective treatment. There is a 30% lifetime chance it will occur in the other eye.
I can close my good eye and still see light and dark, and bits of things through thin spots in the fog, but I can’t read the big ‘E’ on the screen in the eye doctor’s office, or anything else for that matter.
Even with both eyes open, I run into things/trip over things on my right side. I have lousy depth perception. After a year or so, my brain adjusted and mostly tunes out the ‘bad’ input from my damaged eye.
I attended a Low Vision Support Group during that adjustment period. I learned so much from others going through similar experiences, especially from a spunky, legally-blind wedding singer. She is the inspiration for Melisenda, my blind heroine.
Since I lost sight in one eye, the other eye has been hit with Murphy’s Law. Repeatedly. My doctor says it is “just bad luck.” I’ve had optic neuritis in that eye, two macular wrinkles, a cataract is beginning to form, and I have a large piece of scar tissue from the first macular wrinkle that dances around in the shape of an anteater. (I named him Harvey after the invisible rabbit in the famous play, since only I can see him. Luckily, his nose is attached so that most of the time he stays below the center of my vision.)
I’m a planner. Naturally I’ve rehearsed what I will do if I become legally blind. I’ll go to the state school’s course for adults adjusting to blindness. As soon as I qualify (can get around well enough with a cane, etc.) I’ll apply for a Guide Dog. These wonderfully-trained, big-hearted beasts enrich and expand blind peoples’ lives in so many ways!
Getting around with a Guide is much faster and safer for blind people. Guide Dogs are trained in "intelligent disobedience." If a Guide is given an unsafe command, the dog will not obey it. For example, when a light turns green, the dog will not step out into the street if there is oncoming traffic. Guide Dogs are trained to have impeccable manners and are capable of avoiding distractions, so they do not create problems for their human partners. Their eagerness to please and a willingness to work make them wonderful companions. The relationship between a Guide Dog and their human is extremely close. They are not pets; they are half of a team. Human + Guide = Partners.
Your gift of money or your time to Guide Dogs for the Blind makes a powerful difference in the lives of people with vision loss.
Your can designate a workplace gift to GDB as the beneficiary of a payroll deduction contribution at many places of employment. This option is offered to federal, state and municipal employees and through company-sponsored campaigns in the private sector as well.
Learn about volunteer opportunities at
Volunteers welcome dogs into their homes; they act as program ambassadors; they provide administrative support to many departments, and they support the mission in myriad ways. If you want to give your time, there's no shortage of ways to help: 
·         Breeding stock custodians
·         Puppy raisers
·         Campus volunteers
·         Speakers
 Thank you for reading my personal story and for considering supporting Guide Dogs for the Blind. 
~ Sarah

8 comments:

Diana McCollum said...

Awesome blog! Thanks for sharing your personal journey with us. Guide Dogs for the Blind is truly a wonderful foundation. I never thought about all the people involved in the breeding, raising and training of these wonderful partners. Thanks for an informative touching blog.

Judith Ashley said...

My son is legally blind and once his dog, Casper, (not a GDB) goes to doggie heaven, he plans on applying for a Guide Dog. I know he would be more confident when out in public and thus more independent with one.

Thanks for sharing all the various ways this program helps people and all the ways we can support this wonderful program.

Sarah Raplee said...

I'm glad you enjoyed my post and learned something more about this wonderful organization, Diana.

I'm so glad your son plans to partner with a Guide, Judith. It's a life-changing decision he will not regret.

Paty Jager said...

Sarah, I always wondered how you lost your sight and if it had been as a child since you handle it so well. We had 4-H members who received puppies and trained them before handing the off at one year to be trained for the blind. It was a rewarding experience for those youth!

Tammy Palmer said...

Hi Sarah, I didn't know about your sight loss. What a shock it must have been. I had no idea it could happen so suddenly. Thanks for sharing your experience and letting us know how to donate to such a great cause.

Sarah Raplee said...

Thank you for stopping by and reading my post, Tammy. Until it happened to me, I had no idea either.This cause is near and dear to my heart.

Christy Carlyle said...

Thank you for sharing your experience, Sarah, and highlighting guide dogs and all the wonderful work they do. It is without a doubt an invaluable and worthy cause.

Linda Lovely said...

Sarah, have been on vacation and just getting back on the internet. Your story is inspiring and educational. Great blog post.