Six years ago, I could have never imagined my life would be what it is today. Cancer may have taken my sight but my children, Nuala age five, and Aoife, age three, give me purpose. Being their mom has been the hardest, most rewarding experience I have ever known. In just a few days, Nuala heads off to kindergarten and Aoife starts preschool. Thanks to the generosity of Guiding Eyes for the Blind, I never have to navigate the schoolyard alone. With the help of my beautiful guide dog, Frances, we tackle the challenges of blind motherhood together, from morning drop off’s to PTA meetings.
Frances is so much more to me than just my guide, together we have forged a bond that gives me confidence in every aspect of my daily life.
With the help of my four-legged companion, I am able to be an integral part of my children’s education. I am able to provide for my family, navigating busy New York City to teach classes as an Adjunct Professor at Metropolitan College of New York. Finally, with Frances’ assistance, I am pleased to announce we are attending New York Theological Seminary this fall where I will be pursuing courses to be used towards my doctoral degree in ministry.
Every single day. Every new experience. Frances remains steadfast by my side. Receiving a gift like Frances really made me consider how I could give back to my own Staten Island community. When “Franny” is not helping me meet the demands of motherhood, she accompanies me to help educate kids through our Visually Impaired Education Program (VIEP). Aimed at grades K-2, V.I.E.P. ’s mission is to engage school-aged children through classroom interaction with the blind and visually impaired community; helping diminish stereotypes associated with blindness. Frances attends every presentation, a beautiful reminder of the important work of guide dogs.
Now as she represents Guiding Eyes for the Blind as the Hero Dog Award’s 2018 Guide Dog winner, we will show the entire country the blind can equally parent and how the use of a guide dog can enhance the parenting experience for the visually impaired. I believe Frances deserves to be the American Humane’s Hero Dog because her partnership allows me to be the woman I want to be. She helps me juggle all that comes with being a working mom while educating our community about living with vision loss.American Humane believes the Hero Dog Awards honors heroes on both ends of the leash, but Frances and I know there have been many people who have helped bind our leash together. We could not accomplish all that we have done without the love and support of all of you, from the people at the Guiding Eyes breeding program, to the veterinarians, veterinary technicians, fundraisers, and trainers. Finally, we acknowledge the dedication of the individuals involved in Guiding Eyes’ puppy raiser program. The selflessness of puppy raisers is far more heroic than Frances and I could ever hope to be. The Cashman family, who raised my beloved dog, are always in our hearts. I feel them with me every time I grip Frances’ harness and I am so grateful to them.
We hope you will take the time to vote for Frances. You can vote once per day until September 5 at 12 p.m. PDT. Let’s show the world how Guiding Eyes for the Blind is changing lives, one blind parent at a time.
Holly Bonner, MPA, MSW, CASAC
October 2018 update: Guiding Eyes Frances is the finalist and winner of her category, Guide/Hearing Dog of the Year! Congratulations, Frances, and thank you to all who voted!
To read more from Holly, visit her blog Blind Motherhood.