Leader dogs are more than just a furry companion; they’re a lifeline to those experiencing vision loss. “We are joined at the hip and we are the perfect working team.” Jeff Hawkins and his leader dog, Gracie, are inseparable and indispensable to one another. This episode tells the story of how they came to find one another.
‘Man’s best friend’ can be just that to any man – or woman or child – experiencing vision loss. “In bounds this 16-month old pup…It was one of the most powerful, emotional moments of my life.” Jeff Hawkins credits his leader dog with giving him a new zest for life – and new level of independence – after experiencing vision loss.
Loss of vision does not have to mean loss of self-identity. “The grief is not only related to loss of visual functioning, but to the loss of the life previously experienced.” Margo Siegel, social worker and psychotherapist, weighs in on this episode to give insight into the mental health issues that accompany vision loss. However, as she emphasizes, there are resources available to help those experiencing vision loss regain a sense of self.
Leader Dogs and Mental Health: What’s life like after vision loss? “Is my shirt on inside out?” As Jeff Hawkins explains, vision loss means losing the ability to do millions of small things independently. However, his story is not one of sorrow, but one of hope. This show celebrates his triumphs and recognizes the importance of supporting those facing vision loss.