Sandra Shelby is a retired intensive care nurse who has dabbled in long haul truck driving and horse training. She showed and trained dogs for 40 years in a variety of different skills including narcotic training, tracking/trailing, herding, obedience, and conformation. Her dog training background aided her in the process of selecting a guide dog school when she suddenly lost her vision in an accident.
After her vision loss, Shelby soon discovered that orientation and mobility (O&M) training — a prerequisite for traveling with a guide dog —was lacking in her hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. “I was given a white cane and was told to move it from one side to the other until I hit something, then check to see what it was, and then walk on. I never got training on my routes I traveled on daily basis,” she said.
In an effort to better her skills, Sandra applied to GDB’s O&M Immersion Program. This program’s main objective is to assist people wanting to work with a guide dog to develop those O&M skills most relevant to guide dog mobility. In this exciting program, GDB partners with agencies and O&M professionals to offer the Immersion Program. Our current partners include Earle Baum Center in Santa Rosa, Calif., and LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco.
Upon completion of the week-long Immersion Program, Sandra had indeed gained many crucial orientation and mobility techniques. “I learned to tell by the sounds and movements of cars if the drivers were committing to go forward or turning. I learned how sounds differ whether you’re near a wall or a doorway. The best was learning to remember a route both forward and in reverse,“ she said.
Armed with her new knowledge, Sandra was then ready to get a guide dog. She came to GDB’s Oregon campus in the Fall of 2017 and was paired with Golden Retriever Neptune. The first time Sandra was guided by Neptune, she felt out of her element without a “cane to follow a crack in the street or something to hit a car bumper.” But, “the moment I stepped up on the curb on other side [of the road], tears came to my eyes and at that moment I knew I could trust him. We have never looked back,” she said. “I do believe if it had not been for the O&M Immersion Program I would have had more problems allowing myself to trust so quickly.”
Congratulations and happy trails to Sandra and Neptune!