Photo by Stephanie Colman
Friday the 13th ended on an inspirational note for members of Valley Hills Obedience Club, as they listened to Guide Dogs of America’s Lorri Bernson recount the experience of losing her vision and gaining a guide dog.

With Guide Dog Carter at her side, Bernson spoke to the nearly 40 club members in attendance for more than an hour, providing an overview of the school and an honest account of her personal journey from sighted to blind and from cane-user to guide dog graduate.

Bernson, 49, lost her vision quite suddenly to diabetes when she was just 33 years old. She describes herself as a “very independent person,” and said the loss of independence was the hardest part of losing her eyesight.  

One especially impactful comment was how, out in public, strangers often hesitate to talk to a blind person because of the lack of opportunity for eye contact, and when they aren’t sure what to say, they don’t say anything.

“I was saddened to hear how lonely she felt in a crowd of sighted people unwilling to speak to her out of fear they might offend,” said Sue Blackburn of Westlake Village. But then I was so happy to learn that, beside the obvious aid provided by the dog, the dog also opens up opportunities for sighted people to interact with her.”

Other members were touched by hearing Bernson describe the relationship she shares with her current dog, Carter, and first guide dog, Nigel.

“My favorite comment was how she didn't want a dog at first because she was worried about how hard it will be when the dog passes away,” said Elisa Becker of Malibu. “It was nice to see and hear about the connection Lorri has with her dogs. They don't just work for her – they are her cherished pets, too.”

Note: A detail I found especially uplifting, was how Bernson negotiated an opportunity to throw the first pitch at a Dodger game in August 2011. I love her go-getter attitude!


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