Isabella’s Journey to Independence

Isabella’s Journey to Independence

[Click here for the video audio description for our community with vision loss.]

Isabella & guide dog Dixie

teen guide dog

Isabella kisses Dixie on her head.

Like many 15-year-olds, Bella’s days are filled with classes, homework, marching band, music lessons, club meetings, and friends. But unlike her classmates, Bella is legally blind from optic atrophy. With limited vision, Bella had to convince the band instructor that she could keep up, and now she never misses a beat! Despite facing bullying from classmates and occasional trips and falls, her resilience propels her forward.

As a child, Bella wrote a letter to Southeastern Guide Dogs asking for a guide dog, not understanding that she was too young. Over the years, she attended our special campus events, and while on a recent field trip, she asked a staff member, “I want a guide dog…how long do I have to wait?”

This determined teen is now our first recipient of a guide dog through our new youth guide dog program for teens 15 – 17, and she’s been matched with Dixie, a smart, affectionate goldador. After training at home and school, Bella and Dixie have become inseparable. Dixie guides Bella directly to each class, and classmates make way for her beautiful dog. “Dixie makes travel so much easier for me,” Bella says. “Now I have more freedom to do what I want to do without having to rely on other people to help me. And I’m able to walk as fast as I’ve always wanted to without having to worry.”

Dixie is sponsored by the Southeastern Guide Dogs Finance Department and named in loving memory of the beloved best friend of staff member Leisa Lewis. Leisa’s Dixie, also a black goldador, was a mascot to the department for over 12 years.

Do you know someone that could use a guide dog? Encourage them to apply today.

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