Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Stories by RP Friends

The Path to a Guide Dog

By Larry Marcum, California-2001      

As many of my friends know, I am about to embark on a new and exciting experience in my life. Because of my diminishing eyesight due to an eye disease called
Retinitis Pigmentosa, I decided a few months ago to apply for a guide dog, also known as a seeing eye dog. Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) is also known as tunnel
vision. The cells in the retina die off as it progresses, and the tunnel gets smaller and smaller, and can result in total blindness.  Night blindness
and loss of visual acuity are also symptoms. My field of vision is less than 10 degrees, whereas a person with normal vision has a field of about 180 degrees.                                                                                                                                                                             

The school I selected is Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael. The course is 28 days long, with training 6 days a week. Persons eligible for a guide dog
must be legally blind (corrected vision of worse than 20/200 or a field of vision of less than 20 degrees), at least 16 years old, physically, mentally
and emotionally able to care for and work a guide dog.     

The application process has included doctor’s verifications, Orientation & Mobility training (white cane), personal references and phone and personal interviews
by the school. I was notified by the school just before Thanksgiving that I was accepted (and am I thankful!). I will travel to the school January 6th
with graduation February 2nd.     

This is an exciting time for me. Just knowing that right now as I write this, this dog that I have not met yet is being trained to help me. This dog will
guide me for the next 8 or so years, going most everywhere with me, keeping me safe and allowing me to go places that otherwise would be difficult for

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