My Life with a Guide Dog

Shanna and her guide dog, Hershey.Recently, the U.S. celebrated the anniversary of the first guide dog school in the country, and by extension, all other service dogs, too. I thought that would be the perfect time to introduce myself and my own lovely guide dog, to all of you and tell you about our adventures together.

I’ve been working with guide dogs on a personal level for quite some time. My family raised a guide dog puppy, and I received my own guide dog in 2001. Currently, I have the privilege of partnering with a great Labrador called Nestle (yes, as in the chocolate!) Nestle and I celebrated our sixth anniversary earlier this month, and I couldn’t ask for a more wonderful guide and companion.

Professionally speaking, I had the opportunity to work as a Resident Advisor at Guide Dogs for the Blind, a non-profit organization that specializes in training guide dogs for blind and visually impaired people. I worked with many wonderful Labradors and Golden Retrievers, Lab/Golden crossbreeds and some German Shepherds to get them ready to work with their blind partners. Then, I worked with the dog and handler together and got to watch some truly amazing partnerships blossom. It was the human/animal bond at it’s finest, and I’m so lucky I got to help make that happen.

Recently, I decided it was time for me to leave sunny San Francisco and return to the Midwest in order to complete my university degree. Nestle and I made our second cross-country move together, and have begun our new lives as college students. It took Nestle a few weeks to get used to a completely new routine, but with lots of love (and a few extra treats) she’s back to her usual happy self. She’s figured out where all my classes are and she can even find my favorite coffee shop. It has been a lot of fun to teach her about my new environment and watch her start figuring it out. We still have lots of exploring to do together, but we’re off to an excellent start.

Working with Nestle, as well as the hundreds of other guides I have met over the years, is a truly amazing experience that I can’t wait to share with you. Please feel free to comment with any questions, or share your own service dog stories. I look forward to hearing from all of you, and bringing more of my tales from the world of guide dogs to you through the PHC blog!

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