Guide dogs bring Guiding Eyes for the Blind graduates the gifts of independence and companionship. But for graduate Terry McCann, they mean so much more. “Guide dogs go beyond giving us freedom; it’s what we do with that freedom to serve others within our community.”
Terry graduated in 2016 with his first Guiding Eyes guide dog, a black Lab named Mac. The night before he was matched with his dog, he sat down to reflect on how his life was about to drastically change. That’s when his first song, “My Guiding Eyes,” was created.
“As I sat in Alumni Hall, I remembered this one day I was out walking with my O&M instructor. I was finally getting used to the white cane, and I remember looking out over the downtown area of my city and feeling frustrated about how hard it would be to navigate it with a cane,” Terry said. “I pointed to it and said, ‘I want to go there.’ I remembered that day and wanting to go more places together with a guide dog. The first line in my song—’Take me to the place beyond where I could reach’—came right from that moment.”Terry has been playing the piano since the age of four and has been involved with music throughout the years. So when he was asked to give a presentation to potential Guiding Eyes puppy raisers, he gladly accepted—and wrote another song.
“Love Comes Back” was inspired by the important job of a Guiding Eyes puppy raiser: voluntarily opening their heart and home to a puppy, setting the foundation for the dog’s future in guide work, and returning them to Guiding Eyes in hopes of going on to guide a person with vision loss.“I wrote this song to help the puppy raisers deal with the emotions that come with bringing your dog back after bonding with them for so many months,” Terry explained. “When I graduated with Mac, my eyes were opened as to how much the puppy raisers sacrifice for us. I want to help them see the bigger picture, and I hope it will encourage others to raise a dog for the organization.”
Terry’s performance was so well-received that he has since been asked to present at these presentations around the east coast. He has traveled throughout his home state of Ohio, to Maine, New York, and in a few months, Maryland and Virginia. “It’s my calling right now to give back to the school in this way.”
First-time Guiding Eyes for the Blind puppy raiser, Christopher Coyne, recently attended one of the presentations where Terry performed.
“When you listen to the words in his songs, it’s like Terry gets what we are doing more than we do. His songs have the power to touch others; they tell the story of how his life has changed since Guiding Eyes gave him Mac,” he said. “We already have three new families interested in puppy raising after watching him perform that day.”When Terry isn’t helping to recruit volunteers for Guiding Eyes, he gives back in another important way. Five to six days a week, he and Mac travel to local nursing homes and sing songs of faith to the residents. As an active member of his church, Terry feels that this is his spiritual calling.
“I felt the need to bring the Church to those who are no longer able to get there on their own. I think it’s important as a guide dog handler to keep in mind our greater purpose in life. It’s not just about my added freedom as a guide dog user, but what I do with that freedom to help others.”