by Elisama Eliu Rogel Mendoza
About the author: Elisama Rogel Mendoza is a senior in high school from West Lafayette, Indiana. He enjoys photography, dance, music theory, and fashion. He plans to pursue a career in the visual and performing arts using elements of fashion, music, and photography after attending Fashion Institute of Design and Marketing. Elisama wrote this profile in conjunction with Mekalea Chambliss as an assignment in a senior composition class taught by Kathy Nimmer, a Guiding Eyes graduate who is partnered with Nacho, a yellow lab guide dog.
The life of MeKalea Chambliss revolves around one of her main passions in the world that embodies who she is as an individual: dogs and raising them. This plays a major role in her life, as she started raising puppies from the early age of fifteen years. MeKalea has raised a plethora of successful future guide dogs for the blind, as her dedication and sentimental friendship with these creatures indicates so. She went into puppy raising unconscious of the enormity of a life-altering experience and responsibility that not only she would be involved in, but how it would convey similar and exceptionally positive effects to others, especially to a demographic of people that would have a great benefit from her dedication. A triggering factor that has generated a need for MeKalea to become a puppy raiser is the undying love she has for dogs and a desire to help others, which as a result, transmits fulfillment and satisfaction of being part of something that transforms lives and that leaves an everlasting footprint of positivity in a world that yearns for it, a panacea for humanity.
Ever since childhood, MeKalea has always been surrounded by dogs; Her father is a veterinarian while her mother works as a veterinarian technician. Due to that exposure, MeKalea decided to raise puppies with the knowledge she possesses from her parents. Another major factor in her decision was that she has impeccable skills when it comes to handling animals, more than with people, which contributes heavily to her capability of raising them. When it finally came down to a commitment, she did not give it a second thought and instinctively wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to volunteer with dogs, In this decision, she also benefits the life of another.
MeKalea also states that most everything she does in life is in relation to dogs: 4H projects, college pursuits, hobbies, previous and current careers. So it is no surprise she was drawn to raise puppies.
As MeKalea continues puppy raising to this day, her views of how it impacts her personally become more apparent. As mentioned, she began with the ability to be and communicate around animals but fell short when it came to people. But as she was further in the process of puppy raising, she eventually was able to become more social around others. With a puppy that she trains, she was able to exponentially increase her confidence by having something she could passionately share with others in social interactions. And as a result, she did not depend on her dogs as heavily as she did before to spark dialogue and be comfortable with herself around others. “ I was able to feel a sense of calm in social situations and gained a lot of steady comfort and confidence talking to strangers and being outside of my comfort zone. Even without a dog, I am now able to handle social settings in a more controlled manner and interact more freely,” she states.
Besides a boost in self-esteem and confidence and comfort in a social setting, MeKalea has grown in practical and personal areas as well. The responsibility of caring for a defenseless puppy, let alone a living being’s well-being can be a quite daunting, challenging, but rewarding task. Time commitment and effort are vital to successfully doing such a thing, which is what MeKalea has acknowledged, and as a result, has guided her with improving time management skills. A byproduct of this would be highly developed critical thinking skills and verbal articulation skills, which are resourceful in today’s society.
For all of her life, MeKalea Chambliss has been collaborating with these intelligent creatures while carrying a gargantuan responsibility that has made a drastic difference in people’s lives. Her dedication has affected day-to-day tasks like navigating on a sidewalk and having a friend who shows affection and helps foster independence. One of her dogs named Everest has recently graduated from training alongside his partner. Everest’s blind handler describes the relationship between them and how Everest is not just a guide dog but a lifelong companion with an immense bond that could never fall apart. Sentiments such as that, combined with MeKalea’s devotion, have given her a sense of satisfaction and purpose, which has strengthened the bond and admiration she has with dogs as she discloses a thoughtful statement: “ I realize now that I do have something to offer the world and that I am good at something. Watching how dogs respond to my presence on the other end of the leash is like nothing else I can describe.”