Camp Guide Dogs for the Blind

Authors: Allison Smith, Student

Keywords: guide dog, summer camp, Guide Dogs for the Blind, GDB, O&M

Abstract: A young adult takes us on her journey to Camp Guide Dogs for the Blind in Oregon. This week-long camp helped her gain an understanding of what it might be like to work with a guide dog in the future.

I’m Allison Smith. I’m 19 years old and a graduate of Texas public schools. I’m writing to tell you about an amazing opportunity I had last summer. I attended a camp at Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB), the largest guide dog school in the country. Open to youth ages 14-17 and adults ages 18-24, camp GDB is designed to give young people a taste of the guide dog lifestyle. Thanks to a recommendation from a friend, I applied, was accepted, and had a wonderful learning experience. Prior to camp GDB, I was seriously considering getting a guide dog, but I wasn’t sure it was the right decision for me. Now I know!

Camp Guide Dogs for the Blind was held at a retreat center a few minutes from GDB’s campus in Boring, Oregon. Campers had the opportunity to walk with a guide dog to experience what it would be like to navigate with one as our primary mobility aid. We also learned how to feed, groom, and relieve a guide dog. After some initial training, we had the chance to put our skills into practice by taking on the responsibility of hosting a guide dog in our dorm rooms overnight. I appreciated finally having the opportunity to ask my long list of questions about guide dogs to two of the camp counselors who actually have guide dogs of their own. They were an excellent resource and were so willing to share openly about their experiences. I also learned a lot just by observing them as they interacted with their dogs.

A young student with long brown hair sits outside hugging a black lab.

Allison hugging one of the guide dogs at camp

While at camp, we participated in fun activities completely unrelated to guide dog handling. We went tandem biking and visited a llama farm. I learned so much at this camp and made new friends, too. At the end of the week, I decided that traveling with a guide dog is right for me, and I’m going to apply soon. If you’re on the fence about getting a guide dog, I encourage you to attend Camp Guide Dogs for the Blind. You can find the summer applications on their website in April and May. Everyone at this camp was beyond friendly, and even if you decide the guide dog lifestyle isn’t right for you, camp will still be a super fun experience.

A yellow lab licks the face of a young student with long brown hair.

Allison gets a kiss from a new canine friend.

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