The CNIB and Me

Makings of a Guide Dog is a collection of my guide dog experiences, and an open exposé of my life. Each of my dogs has been with me during major life events, so how could I not tell the stories of my guide dogs without being completely transparent about who I am and my own life experiences.

It’s Thanks to a dedicated group of professional guide dog trainers, the funds you the public donate to guide dog schools, and the laws that allow me to travel with my guide dog without restrictions, that I’m able to pursue my outdoor lifestyle. I’ve always loved the company of a dog, so being able to have one at my side full time is a real treat.

Sure, there are occasions when a white cane better suits the challenge at hand, and sometimes I’ll use various hiking and other poles along with my guide dog, but nothing can beat the sense of freedom I get when I’m with my guide dog – no matter the weather or terrain.

My experience with vision loss began at age eight when my central vision vanished, and I was registered by the CNIB as blind. Then, in my mid-20’s it spread, and I lost my remaining functional vision. Finally, in my late 40’s, my last remaining ability to see light began to fade. Three distinct phases, all of which brought their own challenges in how society viewed me, the coping skills I developed, the barriers I faced to become a contributing member of society, the skills and technologies learned and employed, and the physical and mental health challenges experienced. Throughout it all, I’ve been fortunate to have great dogs by my side, and to be able to count on the CNIB when there was no way I could keep going on my own.

What I can’t tell you right now is who my new guide dog is. I can say it’s from the CNIB, and that we had a lot of fun working with a string of young guide dog trainees over six months before a decision could be taken about which of them would be my new guide dog. It was like being in an episode of the “Bachelor”.

The CNIB and I documented in blogs, photos, and videos, our taking eight young guide dog trainees on all manner of outdoor adventures. In episode eight one of the successful graduates was chosen to be my new guide dog. That wasn’t the end though, I next had to be trained and certified with the young graduate before travelling north for a real outdoor adventure.

Like I said, I love dogs. To be able to go anywhere in the city with my dog is a real treat. Being able to leave the city and experience Canada’s great outdoors is an even greater bonus. Having a guide dog that’s just as comfortable on a forest path as on a sidewalk, or in a canoe as they are in  a truck, or traversing frozen lakes “as the crow flies” as they are making their way through heavy traffic, or climbing mountains as they are with taking stairs, are just some of the things that I need in a guide dog to do the things I do.

Thankfully, the CNIB understands that guide dogs in Canada need to serve everyone, regardless whether the person lives in a city or in a small rural, remote, or northern community. Up until now, I’ve had to teach these skills to my guide dogs myself – no more.

Before we present the Makings of a Guide Dog video series, I thought it would be helpful if you got to know me and what I do first. I’m going to release a series of blogs and photographs that go back to 1986, tell the stories of six guide dogs, and let you the reader into my life in ways that up until recently, I swore I would never do.

If the blogs leave you wanting to know more, either how I do the things I do in the outdoors with a guide dog, or more personally how I overcame adversity, reach out and I promise to reply. Otherwise, enjoy the blogs and videos (to be released beginning in September 2020).