Sunday, May 20, 2012

Extreme Gratitude to Guide Dogs for the Blind

Today was a really good day. And now that I think on it, we've had an awful lot of good days over the last few months. In fact, Sarah expressed recently that she really doesn't care if she gets a cure for diabetes or not, because diabetes has brought her amazing, wonderful experiences she'd never have had if she hadn't been diagnosed. That's not to say that we won't keep working toward a cure, it's so important that we stop this disease. But what that tells me is that I need to send out some intense "THANK YOU"'s.

It's easy to get down about diabetes. It's really not fun poking yourself to bleeding 10 or more times every day. It's just not. And high blood sugar tummy aches are miserable. And low blood sugar makes you feel, as Sarah described, "like the whole world just went BOOOOOOOM!". But Sarah hasn't let diabetes get her down. Because of diabetes she's...
  • Taken a trip to Washington DC to speak with legislators (and stayed on a very high floor with a super cool glass elevator)
  • Gone to diabetes camp where she met some great friends that she now sees outside of camp.
  • Sang in front of a whole heck of a lot of people at the opening of the 2010 American Diabetes Association walk in Sacramento.
  • Had the intense pleasure to mentor newer kids diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
  • Become a local American Diabetes Association youth ambassador
  • Learned that she can get a special dog to love and cuddle AND most importantly keep her safe.
But the best thing that's come from diabetes by far is the amazing group of people we have met through our local Guide Dogs for the Blind group. These wonderful people come from varied backgrounds with a few things in common; a love of dogs, ginormous hearts, and a desire to help people. Wow. That doesn't really even begin to describe it.

Let's start at the beginning. Back in December it was suggested to me that a good way to get Sarah ready for her diabetes alert service dog would be to connect with Guide Dogs for the Blind puppy raisers. So we called our local group. I explained that Sarah wasn't really interested in becoming a puppy raiser (well, truthfully, she'd LOVE to but that's not something we can take on right now), but that she has diabetes and was hoping to get involved and learn about handling service dogs.

The immediate reaction was "absolutely!" "Come on over" "We'd love to have you!". So we drove to Arden Fair Mall for the very next puppy training. We shyly approached the group (neither of us are particularly great at meeting new people) and they pretty much just dragged us in, and about three seconds after they made introductions, Sarah and I were both handed a leash. The leash was attached to an actual dog (see if I'd been them, I'd have probably handed me one of these to start out with).
But no, they had faith that we wouldn't ruin the dogs with our total cluelessness. They walked beside us and guided us.

Since that day I don't think Sarah's missed a Guide Dog meeting. She quickly went through the process to become an official puppy sitter and now has the chance to borrow dogs on the weekends to get even more handling practice.

This weekend was the annual camping trip, and Sarah and I went for the day. As usual, they pulled us in, offered us food (there's always food - thanks mostly to Barbara), and generally made us feel like a part of their family. We played Uno, Barbara taught Sarah to play Sequence, and we all played some game I've never heard of with hurling colored balls on strings onto a PVC pipe thingy. Turns out Sarah was pretty good at the ball hurly game! As often happens with guide dogs, people love to stop and talk about the dogs and what they do. When you're camping, this can end up even more interesting when you're stopped by a large campsite full of line dancers. Yep. They invited the dogs (and let the people come too) to do some line and square dancing.

Sarah had a marvelous time.

I really don't know how to express how grateful I am to these amazing people and dogs except to say that we've met some of the most quality people I've ever met in my life over the last 4 months. They have shown us kindness and understanding. They've learned a lot about type 1 diabetes (whether they really wanted to or not) and accepted from the beginning that Sarah needs an alert dog to keep her safe. They've supported Sarah's efforts to fundraise for her dog with complete enthusiasm. They've spent hours helping Sarah improve her handling skills, always with a smile, always with patience.

This is a group of people who, together, have probably raised a hundred dogs, many of whom have gone on to be working dogs for the blind all over the United States and Canada. They've given their heart and soul for these beautiful animals, always knowing they must give them up in only a few short months. They take pictures and tell stories of doggie antics from years ago and yesterday. They remember the personality and quirks of each dog with fondness and make each dog feel special in its own time with them.

I never knew how much love, training, love, and love goes into making a successful guide dog. I know now, and Sarah and I have both grown so much from this experience.

So thank you to Elk Grove Puppies with a Vision. You guys just totally and completely rock and I can't possible put into words how grateful we are to have met you and become a part of your group.

THANK YOU!!!!!!!! We absolutely love all of you.


In order to improve our ability to help keep Sarah safe, she will soon be getting a diabetes alert dog. If you are interested in helping Sarah with this, please visit her facebook page at or her website at

1 comment:

  1. Hi Michelle,

    I was wondering if you accepted any guest posting on your site. I couldn’t manage to find your email on the site. If you could get a hold of me at, I would greatly appreciate it!



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