GDA’s “It” Factor

What is it that makes someone choose Guide Dogs of America for their first guide dog and what keeps others coming back time after time? We asked our graduates to tell us, in their own words and through their personal experiences, what “it” is. As it turns out, “it” is everything. From the care and professionalism of the instructors and staff, to the perfect match made with their guide dog and the camaraderie found in class. From the daily meals, to the comfortable private rooms. From the big picture, to the little touches.

Terri Klein and Henna

“I live in Florida, and all my transportation was covered by GDA. I was picked up at the airport by friendly staff. I was oriented to my surroundings carefully when I arrived. Every day, three healthy meals were provided and the cook made sure that my special dietary needs were met. We had a laundry to take care of our own clothes. There was Wi-Fi and TV, too. Since all these everyday needs were met, we could give ALL our attention to the reason we were there: to meet our new partner and best friend!” –Terri Klein

James Jay and Archie

“My time at GDA was a well-organized and structured learning experience. The professional and knowledgeable staff worked as a team making sure that all students’ learning styles were addressed based on degrees of blindness and mobility skills. After becoming blind, I received cane training and the world opened to me. After my experience at GDA, WORLDS have now been opened.” – James Jay

“I received my first guide dog from GDA in 2004, and that class changed my life forever. I built confidence as a blind traveler with my new guide, made new friendships that are still strong to this day, and I learned so much about myself. I left GDA feeling like I had a whole new family and I could take on whatever came my way with my new guide by my side.” – Cari Shields

Dan Kysor and Boone

“My experience with receiving my first guide dog Boone and the training with him was positive and highly educational. Between the support I received from the trainers, staff and my classmates, and the great match between me and my guide, I could not have asked for better preparation for this great independent mobility choice.” – Dan Kysor

“I received my third guide dog from GDA in 2010. All the trainers made class so much fun even with all of the hard work to be done. The time spent working our dogs was long, but rewarding, and the downtime at the end of the day was relaxing and fun. The training was quite informative and left every student with the knowledge needed to go home with our dogs and work them with confidence. At the end of class, I almost didn’t want to go home. Going to Guide Dogs of America was one of the best experiences of my life.” – Lynn Coats

“My experience in class was awesome! I came in wanting nothing except a female black Labrador Retriever. I had my heart set on this. When dog issue day came around, I was matched with an awesome yellow Labrador Retriever. Thank goodness, I trusted the trainers and their experience in making matches. Radar truly changed my life.” – Paulette Wilson

Sonja Wolf and Bria

“When I talk about GDA, it’s only in superlatives, about their kindness, generosity and professionalism. Whenever I speak publicly about Bria and GDA’s training, I say that, ‘If people lose faith in humanity, they can find it again with a visit to GDA.’” – Sonja Wolf

“This comes from the perspective of working with GDA for training of three guides over the last 30 years. I keep returning because its guide dogs always surpass my expectations. I particularly like how the instructors break the class into pairs or small groups when we are on our walks. This allows us to receive immediate and encouragement in the moment. Plus, the training lectures support what the next task will be, as each experience builds on what we learned previously.” – Jeffrey Jenkins

Katrina Stanley and Pali

“I could write books about how GDA has helped me. I really enjoyed the changes in the program, especially the little things, like being able to go around the mall by myself while still in training to let me feel confident that I could do it, but I also knew that if I needed it, I had that safety net of the trainers to fall back on. I feel that GDA helped to prepare Pali and me to conquer the next chapter in both our lives.” – Katrina Stanley

“Guide Dogs of America changed my life. Six years ago, I was united with my best friend Tyler, and my life hasn’t been the same since! The training experience at GDA was amazing, and the food was fantastic! Can I say ‘five-star rating’? The staff are wonderful caring people who are very attentive to everyone’s needs. The fellowships made during class are lifelong. I look forward to going back when I need another guide dog.” – Brent Avery

Andy Leach and Brie

“I was impressed by several things when I was in class. First, the dogs had spent enough time with the instructors that they knew the dogs well from both the perspective of guide work and their individual personalities. This is important because they could offer valuable insight which translates into a solid match and smoother, quicker bonding process for the guide dog team. Next, GDA has maintained its standards of doing things correctly and consistently from daily training routes to behavior at the dinner table and everything in between. It is for these reasons and many more that a GDA trained team is likely to be successful in the real world.” – Andy Leach

Thair Knoles and Curri

“I really value the training I got at GDA. I have attended other guide dog schools, as Curri is my ninth guide dog. I found the training and other accommodations at GDA to be superior. Thank you for a wonderful experience and a great dog.” – Thair Knoles

“Right from the first phone call, staff at GDA took the time to answer my questions and walk me through the application process. I appreciated the time they took to detail my travel arrangements and ensured that GDA staff were there to greet me at the airport. The professional and caring staff provided comfort and care and really understood what different emotions you were going through. Special medical needs were addressed as well as dietary requirements. Before you knew it, GDA started feeling like a home away from home. Then came the day I received Gracy. Even after five years, I still get that feeling of exhilaration when I bend down to put on her harness to go on our next adventure. Thank you GDA.” – Mike Moore

Mike Moore and Gracy

“It’s been almost five years since we graduated from GDA, and I am enjoying my life with my guide dog, Windy, so much. GDA was a great experience for me. I bonded with my guide dog and I made connections with my classmates. I appreciated the quality time the trainers spent with us and how they helped when we reached a bump in the road. Soon those bumps were smooth and with practice, the guide dog team is bonded. Having a guide dog is one of the best things that has happened in my life! – Lynn McLellan

Lauren Adams and PJ

“I’ll never forget the first day I met PJ. There was such a sweet gentleness about her, yet she was full of energy, and I could feel that she had much love to give. She gives me more independence and confidence than I’ve ever had before, and she has such a nice balance of being a hard worker as well as being playful. I couldn’t be more grateful for my amazing dog and for my GDA experience.” – Lauren Adams

Class Break During Training