JULY 2024

[Image: The Vision Guide Dogs logo features a winding road with a guide dog standing in the center and "Vision Guide Dogs" printed in the upper-right corner. Next to the logo it reads "Navigate the World."]

Fostering Independence, One Paw at a Time

[Image: VGD Board member and volunteer Gail Walden kneels with her guide dog Mark next to her in a sit-stay position. In front of them is an easel displaying Mark's canvas painting from a recent event at Makers Studio.]

Independence (Day) by Gail Walden

(Guide Dog User, Volunteer, and VGD Board Member)

As we prepare to celebrate our nation's Independence Day, I started thinking about what "independence" means to me personally. Independence is being able to take care of all my basic needs without being dependent on another human being. Independence is the freedom to leave home whenever I'd like and pursue any interest I'd like whether it's learning a new hobby, volunteering in my community, or exercising. Independence is taking responsibility for my life and the choices I make, not being reliant on others for my livelihood and lifestyle, but, at the same time, realizing that I don't have to do it all on my own.

I used a white cane for about 7 years prior to getting a guide dog, and while a white cane is very useful and effective, it just wasn’t me. I am not only a dog-lover, but I take pride in being self-sustaining, self-supporting, and self-reliant – all synonyms for “independent," by the way! The term "independence" is used in mission/vision statements for several guide dog schools. Guide dogs are trained to help individuals who are blind experience life more independently and with greater opportunity. I have been a consistent guide dog user since 2001 and can attest to the truth in that statement. Having a guide dog has allowed me the freedom to experience life on my own terms, which has led to a boost in self-esteem and confidence.

My vision loss was gradual (I have retinitis pigmentosa) and I now have little to no residual vision, but I can easily maintain a sense of independence that is so much a part of me with a well-trained guide dog at my side. Mark, my current guide dog, gently, swiftly, and safely guides me around the sidewalks and streets of my neighborhood as we go for our exercise walks and mingle with other dog walkers (now friends) out for exercise themselves. Is this not self-sustaining?! I am retired now, but Mark and I used to walk to the bus stop, catch the bus to work, and then find our way through the VA hospital to my office, with Mark getting all the compliments (“What a good dog!” “Such a handsome boy!” and “He’s so well-behaved”) while I just smiled, agreed, and thanked them. Is this not self-supporting?! Now, I attend regular meetings in various buildings, can figure out the best mode of transportation to get there, and count on Mark to help me find the conference room. Is this not self-reliance?! If needed, most people are quite happy to help and enjoy watching Mark and me in action.

So, on this 4th of July, Mark and I are going to celebrate our own independence, while recognizing that of our nation. Happy Independence Day!

To learn more about Gail and her guide dog Mark, tune in to "Pickup Lines" with host Ernie Zuniga on Tuesday, July 2 at 1 pm. The interview will air live on Ernie's Facebook page. Not able to listen live? The entire episode be uploaded to Spotify and YouTube and clips will be uploaded to Instagram and LinkedIn.


Photo Album

[Image: Guide dog-in-training Buddy is in a sit-stay position and sitting behind him are CEO Michael Fresher of the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts and San Antonio Mayor, Ron Nirenberg.]

[Image: Guide dog-in-training Joy working with Puppy Program Manager Martha Menchaca at Bass Pro Shops.]

[Image: Guide dog-in-training Elroy in a sit-stay position in the floorboard area of the passenger side of a car.]

[Image: Guide dog-in-training Joy is in a sit-stay position next to an open umbrella and in front of multiple circular clothing racks at Bass Pro Shops.]

[Image: Guide dogs-in-training Aurora and Joy in a sit-stay position next to a pool, ready to cool off in the Texas heat.]

[Image: Guide dog-in-training Elroy practicing how to be a well-behaved pup at a local Walmart.]

[Image: Bonnie Jensen-DuBois of TEAMability and LouAnn Williams, VGD Board member and volunteer, stand in front of the VGD table at a recent event. Lou Ann's guide dog Keller is by her side. ]

[Image: Guide dog-in-training Buddy in a sit-stay position on a digital body scale.]

Note of Appreciation

[Image: VGD board member and volunteer Ed Harloe stands behind the VGD booth at a public event. VGD board member and volunteer Sandy Merrill is seated next to him.]

Remarkable, Thoughtful, Kind...A huge thank you to a gem of a volunteer, Ed Harloe. Devoted board member, IT expert extraordinaire, and master of event setup and teardown are just a few ways to describe what you do at VGD. You always have a smile on your face and you're always willing to lend a helping hand in whatever capacity we need. It's impressive how many hats you wear and, even more impressive, that you wear them all so well. Many thanks for being the amazing volunteer and human that you are!

Events & Information

[Image: Bright and colorful digital graphic created by The DoSeum which reads, "Beyond Limits: Sensory-Friendly Programming. Wednesday, July 3rd, 6-8 PM, Price $8. Reduced Capacity, Modified Exhibits, Sensory Activities. Thanks to Our Friends at Little Spurs Autism Centers."]

The DoSeum Beyond Limits Event:

Calling All Kids! We invite children and their families to a sensory-friendly evening at The DoSeum. The Beyond Limits program creates a peaceful and inclusive environment that meets the needs of all young learners. The event consists of smaller crowds, assistive signage, accommodating accessories, exhibit modifications, and specialized staff. For more information about the event, click on the button below.

Be sure to stop by the VGD table to participate in some fun, interactive activities!

Date: Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Time: 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Admission Fee: $8


The DoSeum

2800 Broadway

San Antonio, TX 78209


[Image: The DoSeum logo, set against an olive green background, reads, "The DoSeum: Minds At Play."]

Dogs! A Science Tail at The DoSeum

Members Only Event (there's still time to join):

Attention DoSeum Members! Join us for a fun evening celebrating our favorite four-legged friends. You'll have the opportunity to explore the world through a dog's point of view as well as learn about some of the incredible ways dogs serve their communities. Members, be on the lookout for a DoSeum email regarding event registration. Not a member yet? There's still time to become a DoSeum member so you can enjoy this exciting event!

We hope you'll stop by the VGD table to say hello!

Date: Monday, August 26, 2024

Time: 6pm - 8pm

Info: Open to individuals and families with a DoSeum membership

Admission Fee: Free to members (register in advance)


The DoSeum

2800 Broadway

San Antonio, TX 78209


How You Can Help

[Image: VGD Board member and volunteer puppy raiser Beth Hepp works with guide dog-in-training Joy at Bass Pro Shops. Joy is in a down-stay position looking towards Beth who has her arm outstretched with a treat in her hand.]

Volunteer Opportunities:

Spread Kindness, Volunteer Today! If you're looking for a great way to help out in the community, our mission is calling you! For more info on VGD volunteer opportunities, please check out our website by clicking the button or contact us by email or phone.


Phone: (830) 206-0626


That's Interesting

[Image: Guide dog user Sven walking along a road on the Shetland Islands with his guide dog Kieran, a yellow Labrador retriever, by his side.]

Guide Dog Team Abroad:

Meet Sven and Kieran...During a recent trip to the Shetland Islands in the United Kingdom (UK), VGD advisor and volunteer Jeana Orman met Sven and his guide dog Kieran. Sven shared that he is visually impaired due to retinitis pigmentosa, but still has some residual vision. He likes to play the guitar and was inspired by Jeff Healy, a blind guitarist from Canada. Guide dog Kieran waited patiently while the pair chatted, looking dapper with a red flower attached to his harness from his recent grooming appointment. Mum Carla told Jeana that having Kieran has made a huge difference in Sven's life, offering increased independence and socialization. Including Sven, there are only four individuals with guide dogs on the Shetland Islands. They receive assistance from a regional centre for the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, headquartered in Leamington Spa, UK.


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Contact Us

Vision Guide Dogs, Inc.



Phone: (830) 206-0626

Our mission is to help individuals who are blind or visually impaired navigate the world.

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Vision Guide Dogs is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization.

Federal Tax ID 92-0898185