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New Beginnings (9/28/13)

BY DANELLE UMSTEAD

With Aziza

Aziza (left) and Bettylynn (right)

Working in her booties

Early this summer, my guide dog, Bettylynn, was retired. She was diagnosed with optic nerve atrophy. She went completely blind in one eye. Bettylynn is doing great as the family dog. I think she misses guiding and does not understand why she isn’t. We still give her little jobs to keep her feeling like she is doing a job and gets rewarded for it. She is with our son all the time. Bettylynn loved guiding. What dog wouldn’t love it? They get to go everywhere with their owner, get treats all day for helping their owner, sniff all sorts of new smells and travel all over the world. Not a bad life. Bettylynn and our son have bonded even more lately. They are always together snuggling and playing.

It has been a tough few months for me. I reunited with my cane, Jaws. As usual I felt isolated and trapped. Please do not think people who use canes are not independent or feel this way. In fact, they are very independent and strong. For me I get that security with a guide dog. I am very thankful to my family, friends, and teammates for helping me find places I want to go and walking with me to get me there. I miss the independence of going on my own. The past few months, I have walked into, tripped over and fallen off so many things. I have had more cuts and bruises than I can mention. There has been someone with me all the time. Freedom lost... help me.

Rescued:

Over the summer I applied for in-home training for a guide dog, with Guide Dogs for the Blind. If they found my perfect fit — and the timing is right — I would consider training with a new guide dog.

I was going back and forth in my mind/heart if this was the right decision. Well, they contacted me while I was in New Zealand. Not only did they find the perfect fit, but the timing was perfect for them to come to Park City and help us become a safe and strong team.

After three weeks in the Southern Hemisphere, I knew it was the right decision to get a new guide dog. I wanted my independence back. About a week after we returned my new guide dog and a trainer arrived to our home in Park City.

Meet Aziza! She is a happy yellow labrador retriever. Weight: 61.4 lbs., height: 23 inches. She loves her toys and loves to play. Aziza was born Feb. 25, 2012. She had two puppy raisers (one in California and one in Salt Lake City). Aziza went through all the training at school and graduated from Guide Dogs in Boring, Ore. She is beautiful!

Bettylynn has taken on the mentoring role of trying to help Aziza stay. Aziza is trying her hardest to mentor Bettylynn on let’s play, let’s play and let’s play some more! They love doing obedience work together (sit, down, stay). There has been some adjusting period for all of us. Every day it brings more adventure for us all. Aziza works really well in her booties, which will help her in the winter walking on snow (keeping those paws warm). She gets distracted easily, but as we build our bond I am seeing that she is more focused when in harness. The trainer left and I have my independence again. It was so nice to wake up, walk to the store and get the boys breakfast — without any help. Aziza has no clue what is in store for her!

Aziza and Danelle… Let the adventures begin.

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