Let me take a few moments to introduce myself. I'm Karen Ann & I've lived in Upstate NY most of my life. I've been sight impaired since birth due to Optic Nerve Hypoplasia. I was diagnosed at age 11 with Diabetes and because I was a bratty kid who thought I knew everything I ignored my doctors' advice on managing my disease. As a result I developed a number of complications related to Diabetes including further vision loss (Diabetic Retinopathy), kidney/bladder dysfunction and several forms of neuropathy (nerve damage) throughout my body.
By my late teens I lost a considerable amount of my functional vision and that combined with the other health issues sent me into a deep depression. I felt lost and alone and at age 19 attempted suicide. By the grace of God I survived, and with the support of a wonderful physician, friends and family I came to see that life had something to offer.
After stumbling around with a cane for a few years (and getting it stuck in sidewalk grates umpteen times!) I decided there must be a better way to get around... and at the suggestion of my doctor I applied for my first guide dog at Guiding Eyes for the Blind in Yorktown Hts. NY.
On Valentine's Day 1985 into my life came Audrey, a sweet yellow Labrador Retriever who changed my life in countless ways. Audrey brought to the surface all the confidence that was hidden deep inside; she opened doors for me that I never even knew existed. Audrey was the beginning of a new life and though she has long ago passed to Heaven she will always be my heart.
Since that time I completed a BS in Counseling/Health Ed and partial graduate studies. Ongoing health issues and further vision loss led to my leaving graduate school and taking a new path in life. I developed a program called On Sight With Youth in which I visit schools, youth-oriented programs, service organizations and any other place that will have me to talk about blindness and its variations... and of course, the wonders of guide dogs.
After Audrey retired I trained with a magnificent black Lab named Merlin, known by all who loved him as "Mr. Personality". Merlin was such a wonderful boy who was taken from me far too soon; he passed away in 1998 after a short battle with throat cancer. Then came my Gwendy girl, also a black Lab, always willing to please and never phased by anything we came across. My "perfect" girl. I was devastated to lose her when she was just 6 years old. She developed a rare neuro-muscular disease and I said goodbye to my girl August 2003.
My fourth guide Nolte, a silly sweet Golden Retriever from The Seeing Eye in Morristown NJ, retired in September 2008. Nolte was a superb worker and a wonderful friend and companion for 5 years, but sadly he developed several neurological issues that effected his ability to guide safely. For both our sakes it was best to let him retire. He's living out his retirement as a spoiled rotten couch potato here as the "King" of GoldiDox Grove, still the goofy Golden gem he's always been.
My 5th guide was a petite little German Shepherd Dog named Karla. Karla was a little spitfire who loved to play more then life itself. She was the best guide dog she could be but sadly guide work didn't suit her well. She gradually slowed to a snail's pace and it was clear she was not happy working. I made the difficult decision to retire her after a year and a half as a team. She retired to the wonderful family who raised her as a pup for The Seeing Eye, and sadly passed away in October 2013..
My current guide from The Seeing Eye is Jingles, a silly sweet natured Lab/Golden cross. Jingles and I met and trained together in our home area in April 2012 and she has proven to be a wonderful guide. She has a bubbly personality and an eagerness to work, and she greets everyone with a smile and a wagging tail, as if it's a long lost best friend she's never met! In early 2013 I nominated Jingles in the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards, and she won Hero Guide Dog 2013! AHA sent us to Hollywood and we were presented with Jingles' award on stage by Betty White and Pauley Perrette on October 5th 2013. It was a once in a lifetime experience that I will treasure. Jingles will always be my hero!
I'm "Mom" to a wonderful gang of Dachshunds who keep me busy and quite entertained. Maizie is my little chocolate and tan baby and also a working girl... she's my Diabetic Alert Dog. Maizie is an absolute little doll who charms everyone she meets wherever we go. Georgie is my little "dream cream" longhair, a sweet-natured soul who is truly a "mama's boy" in every sense. He loves people but prefers being in my arms for a cuddle. Joanie is my little Tom-boy, a black and cream girl who is full of spunk and sweet as could be. Last but not least is Dannie, a dashing darling chocolate/cream double dapple. Dannie is a special needs baby, he's deaf, but you'd never know he's any different from the rest.
Thanks again for visiting our site and please feel free to stop by again soon. I update the site often and add new pictures of the gang.