Mansfield ISD Magazine Spring 2019 | Page 29

Visual Guide Dog Gives MISD Student More Freedom MISD | When Mady Walker was in the eighth grade, she began losing her vision. Doctors diagnosed her with optic neuritis, an inflammation of the optic nerve that causes blurred or dimmed vision. “With my vision, I can’t see any of my peripheral vision, which means I can’t see anything to the sides of me. It’s black,” Walker explained. Despite her visual impairment, Walker was determined to stay active as a student. She transitioned to Legacy High School and joined the band and student council, eventually becoming the student body president in her senior year. With special accommodations and her cane, she is able to keep up with her peers. However, Walker wanted to gain even more freedom in her final year of high school by applying for a guide dog. The 18-year-old went to a Leader Dogs for the Blind camp in the summer for training. Within five months, she received her new companion. “She went to go get the guide dog in December, which was phenomenal that it happened that fast,” said Shay Utley, certified orientation and mobility specialist. “She’s the first student that I know of in Mansfield ISD that has ever had a guide dog.” The guide dog’s name is Keeper. He’s a 20-month-old black Labrador. Walker said she is already able to do more in the short amount of time that she has had him. “I travel a lot faster. For the most part, he is able to take me places and make me more independent as a person,” said Walker. She said staff members and classmates have been helpful to her and are getting used to having a canine walking through the hallways. “They’ve been super accepting. They love to learn more about him,” she said. “Both students and teachers and administration alike have been very welcoming and helpful with this process.” Walker said although her journey has not been easy, she has finally learned that she can do just as much as someone who has perfect vision. The senior added that caring for Keeper can be tedious, but she and her dog have been inseparable since they first met. Maddie (left) believes that she can still do just as much as someone with perfect vision. I travel a lot faster. For the most part, he is able to take me places and make me more in- dependent as a person. ~ Mady Walker —————— Ruff. ~ Keeper | 29