Keith Gillard recently graduated from GDB. He was teamed with Golden Retriever, Newburg, who was raised by Sierra Hayes of College Station, Texas and the Harrison family of Tracy, California. Below is Sierra's touching and funny speech from the graduation ceremony.
Newburg is a firecracker of personality and there was never a dull moment. Seriously, he woofs in his sleep.
From everything I have learned about Keith, I am so excited to see this new, quirky, dynamic team work together and see the emergent properties that come from their shenanigans as well as their hard work in raising awareness and making the world a more accessible place for everyone.
I said goodbye to Newburg Oltrix Caspian 26 weeks ago and I've been dreaming about this day ever since. The only thing more unthinkable than him leaving me was him staying, and the only thing more impossible than him staying was him leaving. It has been a highlight of my life to be a part of something bigger than myself and know everyday I am somehow making a difference. While Newburg was with me, he made a difference in my community, and had a huge impact on my life. On a 40 acre campus with over 60,000 cute golden retriever puppy deprived college students, Newburg and I got a lot of attention. Sometimes we got to educate the public about service dogs, etiquette, or GDB and sometimes Newburg just lifted their broken spirits after a hard test. I could not be more honored to have raised and trained a silly, goofy, loving, hard working dog.
Newburg: you have been by my side, inseparable. You were there next to me when the dawn broke, and you were right next to me at night in the library when I broke. Since the day I met you, our souls have been woven together, time can change many things, but not that. I believe that you are who you surround yourself with, and I am beyond grateful your soul is the one that has colored outside the lines on the pages of my life. You are truly my best friend. You were there during so many of my college memories that wouldn't be the same without you. You made the good days better and the hard times easier-no matter when I am with you I'm never alone, and together we've taken on the world.
Before meeting you I was a very involved, high strung college student who saw my self worth only as what certifications and grades I had. You forced me to slow down. You taught me so much emotional intelligence, you read my every move. I had to practice being calm before tests so that you wouldn't thrive off my stress, little did you know I'd been struggling with panic attacks and severe test anxiety. You taught me that if you love someone you can't hold them back, even if that means getting left behind. I'm so happy you went searching for your own answers and found your destiny.
Because of you I now value my worth by the amount of good I put into the world.
You helped me discover so much about who I am, and who I want to be. Now it's finally time that you discover who you are. I hope you go into the world with Keith and do well, but more importantly go into the world and do good.
William Shakespeare once said: "The meaning of life is to find your gift, and the purpose of life to is to give it away." How lucky am I that you were mine to receive and give.
I love you.
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GDB Grad Keith Gillard and Puppy Raiser Sierra Hayes sit side by side with Keith's guide Golden Retriever Newburg.