In December, we introduced VSP Global employee Renee Emmerson and her inspiring journey. Today, we’d like to introduce Roxy, Renee’s guide dog!
Roxy, a 2-year old Black Labrador, was raised and trained by Pilot Dogs, Inc., in Columbus, Ohio. When she was ready to graduate, Pilot Dogs taught Renee and Roxy how to work together.
Here’s what Renee says about her experience:
The funny thing is that I drove by Pilot Dogs many times, not focusing on it when I had vision and not thinking about it as it passed my car window into my peripheral vision.
It was in 2013 that I finally discovered this hidden jewel in my back yard. After a year and a half of coping with my altered life with a visual impairment, I stumbled onto a “chance.” My fiancée was driving and he noticed a man walking with a dog in a harness. We pulled over to ask one question.
That question would change the course of how I would navigate my world and gave me back my power, my independence. I will never forget it. My husband said, “What do you do here?”
That is when my journey to getting my guide dog Roxy began.
I had to first learn how to orient myself and use a white cane. (I always said, “You gotta crawl before you walk.”) I wanted to make sure a guide dog was a good choice for me. In addition to instructing me with mobility, Pilot Dogs gave me the knowledge to help make that decision for a guide dog.
Roxy and I will have been together almost a year this coming March 2017. And the saying, “It takes a village…,” definitely applies to this chance I stumbled upon. It seems like the stars aligned for things to work out.
I did not have to wait long to hear back from Pilot Dogs that they had the perfect fit for me. My employer VSP provided me with the ability to take time off to go. I was eager to learn and get out of my fear of just staying in my house. I was eager to learn how to live my life again. And Pilot Dogs was there to teach me that blindness is not what defines me.
Roxy has a personality to love and please her humans. She loves sharing kisses and just enjoying the love I shower on her on a daily. She is not just a guide, but a partner, she is literally going each step with me in my vision loss adventure and she is my best friend.
This year, we will be doing our first big adventure together in Utah to run our first half-marathon together. She has restored within me that there is nothing we cannot do, as long as we are doing it together.
Just a few months after graduation, Renee had the opportunity to take VSP Global CEO Jim McGrann and his friend Bill Barkeley, a deaf-blind adventurer, on a tour of Pilot Dogs. She also shared her desire to “pay it forward.”
This month, Renee was able to deliver a contribution on behalf of VSP Global to help someone else be matched with a guide dog like Roxy.
Photos (clockwise from left): Renee with Roxy in front of the Pilot Dogs building; Renee and Roxy present the check to Pilot Dogs on behalf of VSP Global; Renee and her coworkers receiving a tour of the Pilot Dogs facility; and Roxy with the check