By: Ashley Nemeth
Provincial Director, CNIB Saskatchewan and Manitoba
The moment I held a harness handle in my hand for the first time, my life as a blind woman was changed forever. I had always struggled with having a desire to live my life the way I wanted and felt like something was missing. When I got my first guide dog, everything changed.
Partnered with a guide dog for the last 10 years, I have been able to live my life, my way. Whether it’s travelling, working, parenting, or enjoying time with friends and family, I’ve been able to confidently navigate the world in a way that works for me. When I have a guide dog by my side, I don’t feel like I have a disability.
The recent retirement of my guide dog, Danson, has left me feeling trapped, isolated, and frustrated. I must accept that I don’t get to live the life I want until I’m partnered with my next dog, which may be a year because of the current guide dog crisis caused by the pandemic. In the coming months, I’ll continue to face numerous barriers and must rely on the kindness of others. Having a guide dog is a life-changing gift that enhances my independence, provides freedom, and enables me to be the person I want to be.
A lot of people don’t realize how much goes into turning puppies into best-in-class guide dogs for people who are blind like me. Guide dogs require two years of intensive training, including special techniques for raising puppies, training for all situations faced in the life of a handler, and screening for temperament and health.
It is a significant effort and cost to raise guide dogs exclusively for blind people, but it’s worth everything to me.
I’m grateful for everyone in our community who’s made having a guide dog possible. Thank you.