What independence means to me

Written by Guiding Eyes June 2015 graduate Jessie Welch

Jessica and OrchidMy name is Jessie and I am the proud taller half  of a guide dog team. Orchid was brought into my life three weeks ago when we began training together, and now, I have a story to tell.

I was born with one eye. Throughout my entire childhood, I was told by numerous doctors that I would lose my eyesight. By the age of 32, I had already started a family and had a career as a juvenile corrections officer. All of a sudden, my sight deteriorated. My life as I knew it was completely stripped from me. I thought it was the end. One day, as I was sitting around, depressed and moping, my eight year-old daughter came to me and said, “Mommy, I need you. I want you back.”  I tried to choke that big knot back down into my stomach, but it wouldn’t go down. Hugging me, she said,“why don’t you get one of those dogs that guide you around?” I had this epiphany, so I started looking online and I found Guiding Eyes. It didn’t take much searching, because after reading numerous testimonials and studying various options, everything pointed to Guiding Eyes.

So, all it took was a mouse click and I soon started my training with my first guide dog. She gave me the courage and independence to become part of society again. Now I have the privilege of continuing my journey with Orchid. We often hear “it takes a village to raise a family”; this is just like raising guide dogs, it takes an entire village, even more. Donors, sponsors, puppy raisers, and staff  put their sweat and  tears into these dogs to get what we have today: a working  team  that enables us  to go back out and be that independent person and to have that “normal” life.  I am just honored to be a part of the Guiding Eyes family.

Jessie and Orchid working together
Jessie and Orchid working together