February is all about LOVE and FRIENDSHIP at Guide Dogs for the Blind! To celebrate, we’re shining the spotlight on GDB client and artist, Eryn Stubblefield, who says she loves creating art with her guide dog Latke by her side. Eryn’s recent design, ‘Guide Dog Love,’ is featured on a t-shirt in our online Gift Store. Here's a photo of Eryn posing with her 'Guide Dog Love' poster and t-shirt.
Some of Eryn's artwork is also featured in GDB’s LOVE and FRIENDSHIP fundraising campaign.
This talented illustrator credits Latke with changing her life. Eryn’s four words to describe the guide dog lifestyle are “independence, spontaneity, fun, and love.”
Eryn achieved her goal of obtaining her B.A. in English and Sociology, and encourages other people who are blind or visually impaired to follow their dreams. While she enjoys her job as a customer service supervisor for a large technology company, freelancing as a graphic designer is her passion. “I always make time for my art.”
Eryn has been blind from birth, a condition known as congenial blindness. She can distinguish colors and broad shapes. “My biggest inspiration for art comes from loving creative things,” she says. “I’ve always been ‘artsy.’ I love creating on my iPad, working on graphic design, crochet, and even makeup tutorials. I just love taking something and attempting to make it beautiful.”
Before getting her guide dog Latke, Eryn says she used a white cane to avoid obstacles, but still found herself bumping into things. People also avoided interacting with her. “People are intimidated by the cane and are standoffish. In stores, I often could not get help finding things. But if I walk in with Latke, it’s totally different. She has opened so many doors for me.
The team was matched in 2016 when Eryn attending training on our Oregon campus. “Latke and I bonded instantly! GDB taught me to trust your guide. The training was great. For me, the transition from a cane to a guide dog was fairly easy. We went to Starbucks every day so I was happy. Latke’s favorite place is Starbucks, too,” Eryn says laughing as she recalls how Latke enjoyed several “Puppuccino's” on the house.
“She’s my best friend,” Eryn continues. “During quarantine it’s been isolating. I can only imagine what this time would have been like in my apartment without her. It would not have been great.”
During the height of the pandemic, Eryn wasn’t going out with Latke nearly as much. When they did go out, they walked the same route. As restrictions were lifted in her area, she ventured into a new environment to meet with a few family members. She wasn’t sure how Latke would handle a completely new route and environment, but Latke didn’t disappoint. “Latke didn’t miss a beat. I was so amazed I almost cried. She did such a phenomenal job guiding me around. I was genuinely not expecting her to guide me so efficiently through so many obstacles and people who were loud and excited.”
Latke did not stop working until Eryn took off her harness and told her it was OK to enjoy the party. Latke then willingly succumbed to belly rubs and pets. When it was time to leave and her harness was back on, Latke was all business. “I think it goes back to how well she was trained. Even after everything we’ve been through with the pandemic, she’s still super reliable, it just amazes me. Every day she exceeds my expectations.”
When asked what’s the best thing about a guide dog, Eryn replies emphatically: “I love the companionship and not falling in ditches! I’m living the life I want to live. Having a guide dog is very liberating! I tell everybody go get a guide dog. She’s changed my life, seriously.”
Check out more of Eryn's artwork on her website where her tagline is: A graphic designer with a different perspective.