Announcing Top Dog, 2017!

Our friends with Guide Dog Users of Florida are excited to announce program details and registration info for Top Dog 2017! The event will take place January 13 thru January 15, 2017, at the Holiday Inn and Suites, across from Universal, in Orlando, FL.

Scroll down to read the latest update from the Top Dog-2017 team! Hope to see you there!

Contact the Dixie Land Guide Team!

Contact the Dixie Land Guide Team!
Dixie Land GDU, Inc., 1608 Acacia St., Charleston, SC 29407 (843) 571-0737

Dixie Land Guide Dog Users

We provide education for the sighted community and peer mentoring with advocacy for the blindness community (guide dog, cane and sighted guide users alike), while promoting one community at large.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

"Paws 4" Top Dog-2017!

Welcome to Top Dog 2017 from Dixieland Guide Dog Users, Georgia Guide Dog Users and from host chapter, Guide Dog Users of Florida and from your Top Dog 2017 team, Kathleen Trutschel, Registrar, Sue Harden, s  Coordinator and Debbie Grubb Program Coordinator.

We want to express our gratitude to the following guide dog schools who have brought to this event individuals with specific expertise and commitment to the movement.

The Guide Dog Foundation

Guiding Eyes for the Blind

The Seeing Eye

Southeastern Guide Dogs

We also wish to extend our thanks to the following organizations for their significant financial contributions

Helping Hands for the Blind

The Florida Council of the Blind

Coalition for the Concerns of the Totally Blind

The Greater Orlando Council of the Blind

We wish to express our gratitude to the Top Dog 2017 Webmaster, Ryan Mann

Event Dates:  Friday, January 13 through Sunday, January 15, 2017.

Event hotel: The Holiday Inn And Suites across from Universal Orlando, 5905 Kirkman Road; Orlando, FL 32819. You may reach the hotel by telephone at (407) 351-3333 or (800) 216-0635.

In this document you will find instructions for event and hotel room registration; discount ground transportation from the airport to the event hotel; instructions to register with Orlando Paratransit, Access Lynx; and details about the program.

We have been anticipating Top Dog 2017 since we left Charleston at the conclusion of Top Dog 2015.  Please know how welcome you are and how much we want you to experience the best that Top Dog has to offer.

Hotel room registration:  in order to reserve a room, please call (800) 216-0635 and say that you are registering for Top Dog 2017.  Be sure to provide the event code which is "Top".  You may also register online at where you will use the code "top" as well.

The cost per standard room is $89.00 per night plus applicable tax. The cost for a one bedroom suite is $149.00 plus applicable tax and the cost of a two bedroom suite is $189.00 plus applicable tax.  The pricing will be in effect for three days before and after Top Dog for your vacation pleasure.  The hotel room registration   deadline is December 12, 2016.

Top Dog 2017 Registration:

There are two registration options.  You can register for the event without the meal package at the cost of $15.00 per person or you can register with the delicious seven meal package at the cost of $130.00 per person.  The package includes a traditional plated breakfast on Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings, boxed lunches with a vegetarian option on Friday and Saturday afternoons and plated dinners with a vegetarian option on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Meals for Top Dog:

Plated Breakfast: (Friday, Saturday & Sunday)
* The Eye Opener
Fluffy Scrambled Eggs
Bacon or Sausage
Cottage Fried Potatoes with Peppers & Onions
Warm Biscuits with Butter, Honey & Jelly
Freshly Baked Pastry Basket
Fresh Florida Orange Juice, Cranberry and Apple Juice
Coffee/Teas and Assorted Creamers

Working Lunch: (Friday & Saturday)
* Deli Sub
Three Assorted Meats and Cheeses
Lettuce, Tomatoes and Onions
Garnished with Olives, Pickles
Your Choice of Pasta Salad or Chips
Please note during the registration process if you prefer the vegetarian option.
Soda and bottled water will be available.

Plated Dinner: (Friday)
* Italian Lasagna
Accompanied by: Tossed Salad, Seasonal Vegetables, Rolls
with Butter, Chef's Choice Dessert, Coffee/Tea
Please note during the registration process if you prefer the vegetarian  option.

Plated Dinner: (Saturday)
* Duo Entrée; BBQ Chicken or Pork Marsala (Sauce on the Side)
Accompanied by: Tossed Salad, Chefs Choice of Herb Rice or
Garlic Potatoes, Seasonal Vegetables, Rolls with Butter, Chef's Choice
Dessert, Coffee/Tea
Please note during the registration process your choice of entrée or if you prefer the vegetarian  option.

Registration is available online at

You may find it necessary to paste the link into your browser.  You may contact Top Dog 2017 Registrar, Kathleen Trutschel at (386) 257-9337 if you wish to register via telephone.  The deadline for Top Dog 2017 registration is December 12, 2016.  The deadline for requesting a refund is December 31, 2016.

Top Dog 2017 Program:
Friday, January 13,

As usual, the exhibit hall will be open on both Friday and Saturday from 9:00 AM until 5:00 PM.

Breakfast will be served from 7:00 AM to 8:30 AM.

The program includes four sessions of CPR training for your guide.  Each session will be open to 10 participants.  We are delighted to have the First Aid/CPR instructor from Southeastern Guide Dogs, Bonnie Knapp,  to bring these sessions to us free of  charge.  She will be ably assisted by veterinarian Dr. Amy Long.   This program will be open on a first come first served basis to the first 40 guide dog users  who register.  You may choose your time preference; but that choice will not be guaranteed.  We do guarantee the first 40 guide dog users a spot in one of the sessions.  The sessions are scheduled from 10:00 AM to 10:50 AM;  11:00 AM to 11:50 AM;1:00 PM to 1:50 PM; 2:00 PM to 2:50 PM.

Wayfinding devices are adding to freedom of movement and access to all sorts of information which is greatly enhancing the travel experience for guide dog users.  Jenine Stanley, co-host of ACB Radio's Main Menu and Consumer Relations Coordinator, Guide Dog Foundation, and her husband, KentStanley, will be available throughout the day to provide hands on demonstrations of some of the most accessible and versatile of these wayfinding devices.  In order to schedule an appointment with them, please do so at the registration desk when you pick up your materials.

If you have ever worried about an airline emergency, please come to the airline emergency preparedness presentation at 3:00 PM.  Interesting, surprising and crucially important information and insights will be shared and there will be a time for your questions.

The Friday evening dinner will be served at 6:00 PM.  Be sure to join us for good food, fellowship and great music.

At the conclusion of the dinner, the hospitality suite will be open for more fun, food and fellowship.  .

Saturday Program:

Breakfast will be served from 7:00 to 8:15 AM.

The annual Top Dog Blessing of the Guide Dogs will take place from 8:30 AM to 9:45 AM under the direction of a very spiritual retired United Methodist Pastor, Janice McLay.

The exhibit hall will be open for the shopping pleasure of those who choose not to participate in the Blessing.

Flying with Your Guide Dog: will take place from 9:45 AM to 10:45 AM.  This panel presentation will bring to us A Summary of the Effort to Update Air Carrier Access Act Regulations that Affect Accessibility for People with Disabilities and any necessary updates from the Department of Justice.  The panelists  will discuss how to ensure that your rights are appropriately implemented and discuss your personal responsibilities and present helpful hints about how best to prepare to have the most stress free trip possible for both you and your guide.

The panelists are:

Becky Barnes, Manager of Consumer Outreach and Graduate Support, Guiding Eyes for the Blind

Penny Reeder, President Guide Dog Users, Inc.

Jenine Stanley, Consumer Relations Coordinator, Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind

Chelsea White, Outreach Specialist The Seeing Eye

Moderator, Debbie Grubb, GDUI Affiliates Liaison

Allergies in Dogs, 10:45 AM to 11:45 AM.  Dawn Logas, DVM, will discuss this medical issue that has become more prevalent with the ever changing environment.  She will describe their symptoms and treatment and other important information that you need to know as you work with your veterinarian to combat their effects on your dog.

Lunch:  12:00 PM to 1:15 Pm.

Guide Dog School Updates: 1:30 PM to 2:30 PM.  representatives from all guide dog schools present will have the opportunity to bring you the latest news on what is taking place at the schools they represent.

Wayfinding devices, 2:30 PM to 4:00 PM.  a description of and a discussion about some of the most accessible and versatile of these devices, presented by Jenine Stanley, co-host ACB Radio Main Menu. There will be time for your questions to be addressed.  Remember to schedule an appointment for a hands on demonstration with Jenine and Kent Stanley at the registration desk on Friday.

Top Dog 2017 Banquet, 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM.  Charlie Crawford, friend and mentor to many throughout his diverse and significant career and throughout his meaningful life will share with us his journeys with the guide dogs who have partnered with him throughout his life as he has grown, changed and triumphed over adversity to remain his best, true and strong self.

Sunday, January 14

Breakfast, 7:00 to 8:30 PM.
As we partake of breakfast, we will once again participate in Guide Dog Tales, the sharing of personal anecdotes and experiences with our guides, moderated by Jenine Stanley, Guide Dog Foundation.  This program depends entirely on you and the stories that you bring to us.

Exciting Top Dog 2017 Raffle:

Would you like to own a pair of Disney one-day only passes for all four of the theme parks that are good for two years with very few blackout dates? If you would, here is your chance.  The Top Dog 2017 team is raffling off two pairs of these passes to assist us to fund the event.  With each ticket that you purchase, you have two chances to win, one for each pair of the one-day only passes for all four of the theme parks.  The cost per ticket is $5.00 or you may purchase three for $10.00.  Please feel free to purchase as many tickets as you like to better your opportunity for winning.  The drawings for the two winners will take place on Thursday, December 1,2016. This raffle is open to all.

To purchase your tickets, please contact the Top Dog 2017 registrar, Kathleen Trutschel via phone at (386) 307-8275  or via email at <>

You may also purchase tickets during the registration process either via telephone or on line before the deadline of December 1, 2016.

Good luck to all from the Top Dog 2017 team

Ground Transportation:  If you would like to travel by way of Orlando's paratransit system, Access Lynx, please phone them at 407-423-8747 to be advised as to the process for their receiving your eligibility confirmation from your paratransit provider.

For those of you who wish shuttle service from and to the airport, Mears Transportation is providing a coupon that authorizes a $4.00 discount from the regular round trip ride of $33.00.  In order to take advantage of this discount, you will need to bring a hard copy of the coupon to the ticket window when you purchase your round trip ticket.  You will find a link on the Top Dog 2017 website from which you can download the coupon and read the instructions for scheduling your return trip to the airport.  The coupon is valid from Sunday January 8, 2017 through Wednesday, January 18, 2017.

Top Dog 2017 Vendors

Guiding Eyes for the Blind,  Becky Barnes

The Seeing Eye, Chelsea White

Guide Dog Foundation, Jenine Stanley

Southeastern Guide Dogs,  Suzy Wilburn

Total Life Changes, Dimaris Cruz

Guide Lights and Gadgets,  Barry Scheur

Freedom Scientific, Bill Hopton

Low Vision AidsInc, Magnifying America,  John Palmer

Mary Kay, Nancy Folsom

Paul Odham's Opals and Gems, Paul and Patty Odham

Envision America Patricia Bissell

Delicious Candy and Other Great Surprises Leslie Spoone

H.E.L.P. Animals Inc, Cheryl Crozier.

ADL Service Dogs Training and Rescue

Veterinarian Dr. Amy Long and Vet Tech available on Friday only for canine
ear cleaning and nail clipping at a fee of $5.00 for each procedure.

Lilla Rose, Kelly James

We look forward to seeing you in Orlando.  Please share this update far
and wide.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Good bye ’15, hello ’16!

Happy New Year, friends and furries!  Dixie Land Guide Dog Users enjoyed a busy, yet productive 2015 and we're looking forward to an even busier, more productive 2016.  

Audrey, Jessie and Laurel speaking to College of Charleston Delta Gammas

Our Dixie Land Guide Team truly enjoys each opportunity we get to educate and enlighten both the blindness community and the sighted.  We are thrilled to have been able to form a long-lasting relationship with the great girls of the Delta Gammas at the College of Charleston and are happy to oblige any time they ask us to come and speak with their members.

Picture of Delta Gammas

Some of the ladies have confessed they'd attended our talks several times, but always look forward to hearing our stories and petting Jessie, of course.  I think it's more about Jessie than us, though! (grin)

Much has happened in the past year.  We enjoyed visiting with over 150  two-legged and 90 four-legged friends at our now infamous Top Dog-Charleston, 2015.  What a great time we all had!  The only thing better than the food, workshops, entertainment and exhibits was the fellowship.  If you were there, then you know what we mean.  If not, well…hopefully you can make it to Top Dog-Orlando, 2017.

We cannot look back upon the past year without remembering 2 of our special heroes-Lacey and Brego.  Lacey, a beautiful black gold-a-dor from Foundation Guide Dog School was Brianna Murray's first guide.  They were matched back in 2011 just prior to Brianna becoming a freshman at Winthrop University.  Lacey did a great job leading Brianna to each of their classes over their 4 years together before showing obvious signs of retirement.  Lacey's last official duty was to guide Brianna up to the front of the crowd to accept "their" diploma!  Lacey is now living with her "Grandma & Grandpa" Murray in Charleston, enjoying the lap of luxurious retirement while Hopps, a strikingly beautiful black lab guides Brianna through grad school!  Congratulations, Brie and Hopps! You can see pictures of them, and lots of others, on our Facebook page.

Of course, we all remember Brego and what an ambassador he was for our mid-lands Dixie Lander, Ann Humphries.  They began their journey together back in 2010 and worked side by side for 5 years.  When Brego began to give subtle signs of needing to retire, Ann took notice and contacted her school.  The trainers and staff at Southeastern Guide Dog School agreed it was time, so Ann returned to their Florida campus to get her successor guide, Monty.  Monty has some big doggy shoes to fill, but we know he is up to the task!

We're currently in the planning stages for this year's activities.  We've already been asked to do some training for a nearby county and look forward to our newly formed relationship with the City of Charleston ADA representative, for whom we recently served as part of a small focus group.  Of course, we are going to continue with our partnership in Christian Ministry and currently are busy trying to arrange various group activities and special appearances.  

If you'd like to know more about what we've done and where we've gone, simply click on the other posts on this site. Be sure to come back to our site more often!  Meanwhile, we pray God's continued good blessings on you and yours.  Remember, with God's divine guidance and that special pup by your side, you CAN do anything!

From Audrey Gunter (President) and Guide Dog Jessie (Executive Director to the President), Dixie Land Guide Dog Users

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Celebrating Independence

Dixie Landers at the entrance of Patriots Point

It was a beautiful, sun-drenched morning here in South Carolina.  A few Dixie Landers and friends joined together at Patriot's Point Naval Museum in nearby Mount Pleasant, to learn, fellowship and, perhaps even teach while spending a couple of enjoyable hours aboard the USS destroyer Laffey, the World War II aircraft carrier, Yorktown and the USS submarine, Clagamore, all of which now part of the Patriot's Point Naval Museum.

We were met at the park's entrance by Cindy C.; Cindy L.; Molly and Melissa who graciously and patiently offered to escort us all around the premises.  The very first piece of precious memorabilia we stumbled across was their tribute to the 995 South Carolinians who gave their lives during the Viet Nam war.  Surges of pride, patriotism and gratitude embraced us as we ever so gently ran our fingers across the multitudes of replicated dog tags hanging on their wall. We all agreed how blessed and fortunate we were to live in such a magnificent country.

Dixie Landers on the Destroyer Laffey with Plankowner Ari the Greek

Soon Cindy C. began to tell us about a handful of volunteers who had donated their time and efforts that entire week towards the up-keep and appearance of the destroyer Laffey.  Before long a couple of those dedicated fellows were introducing themselves to us and telling us how they'd all been connected to that destroyer at one time or another.  We all thanked them for their service and remarked how it was through their efforts that we were even allowed to be there. N Then, it happened!  From out of no where walked "Ari, the Greek", or, at least that's how they introduced him.  Ari, now living with his wife and family in Portland, Oregon, proudly donned a bright orange shirt that had printed on the front, "USS Laffey Plankowner".  He explained that he had been assigned to "her" when she was commissioned back in 1943 and spent 2 years aboard during World War II.  We were all spellbound as Ari began a very special guided tour of "his" Laffey.
Dropping my harness handle and clutching Jessie's leash, I quickly grabbed Ari's left arm as he began to show us around.  Suddenly it was June 6, 1944 and we were off Utah Beach during the invasion of Normandy!  Surrounded by various other ships in the United States Naval fleet and umbrellad by a cloud of US bombers, we could almost hear the guns blazing, bombs bursting and guns blaring.  Ari affectionately escorted us from stern to bow; lee and port side, taking my hand and placing it on various areas of the ship that had received damage.  His voice was filled with pride as he pointed out the "hedgehogs"; gunnery deck and radar equipment.  He stopped at one point to tell us a story or two about a couple of shipmates during the invasion and to allow us an opportunity to feel where a Japanese Kamikaze struck her dead on during the battle of Okinawa!  It was mind-boggling to know that even after all that, the Laffey still continued on.  No wonder she's known as "the Ship that Would Not Die"! 
I learned that Ari had spent over 2 years aboard the USS Laffey, most of which engaged in warfare.  How difficult that must have been for all of them-especially Ari.  I asked if he'd been given any opportunity for worship during that time and he sadly replied that they'd had no chapel on board, which was really hard for him since his dad had been a Priest.  

Dixie Landers in front of large flag on Yorktown Hangar Deck

Much too soon our tour of the Laffey was over and it was time to visit the Yorktown.  There was no comparison between the two in size.  One was a destroyer and the other an aircraft carrier.  One was the size of a city block and the other, an entire city!
The Yorktown was commissioned in 1937 and fought during World War II until she was sunk in 1942.  She now sits proudly in the shadows of the newly erected Ravenel Bridge in the Cooper River just outside of Charleston, SC.
Because of time constraints, our tour of  the Yorktown was somewhat rushed but we did get to visit the flight deck, hanger deck and a few other points of interest. 

Dixie Landers on Yorktown flight hangar deck with Mascot Scrappy

As we passed their mess hall, we could actually hear the tinkling of glasses and clanking trays just like it was so very many years ago when that ship was fully manned.  Our lunch at Sticky Fingers was delicious and we even got to have our photos made with their mascot, Scrappy!

touring helicopter

Before long we were headed towards the gangplank and the parking lot. We'd have to see the submarine Clagamore another day.  But wait!  Some of us still had one more thing they absolutely had to do.  Within a few moments, Kimberly Taylor, Laurel Jean Walden and Kimberly's friend Cindy were jumping in the tour helicopter and flying over Fort Sumter and the Battery. 
"This is the best day ever," Kimberly said as she exited the chopper area.  

We'd only spent 4 hours visiting Patriot's Point, but we'll have a lifetime of memories from our time there.  Thank you, Cindy C,; Cindy L.; Melissa and Molly for an incredible day and a very special note of appreciation goes out to all of the brave men and women who have served or are now serving in our US military, especially "Ari, the Greek."

Of course, none of this would have been possible if not for our driver, Libby who generously donated her time and vehicle to transport us.  God bless you all and God bless the USA!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Brego the Brave

Retirement portrait of guide dog Brego

Pictured here is the retirement portrait of Brego (Columbia, SC). Brego is the first guide of Dixie Land GDU member Ann Humphries. He returns to his loving puppy raiser family, the Gruvers of Montgomery, AL on September 13th. Ann says, "Brego has been an exceptional guide. We've had so many wonderful adventures. He has a huge fan club!"

Ultimate Outsider

Brego was awarded "Ultimate Outsider Status" by the South Carolina State Parks. He has stayed in 22 parks! The parks are commissioning an "Ultimate Outsider" pillow for Brego.

Our prayers are with both Brego and Ann during this time of transition.

Dixie Lander in "Hawg" Heaven!

Ann Humphries on Motorcycle

Dixie Land GDU member Ann Humphries, Columbia, SC was guest of Chuck & Carol Beaty , long time friends from Spring Valley Presbyterian Church, who arranged a morning country back- roads trip on a Harley Davidson Touring bike. Brego (Ann's guide dog) sat out this trip, but only after sniffing the tires. The driver described the country scenery. Kirk joined Ann and the host couple for lunch in historic Ridgeway, SC in Fairfield County.

About Us

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Charleston, SC, United States
Dixie Land Guide Dog Users is the South Carolina Affiliate of Guide Dog Users, Inc., the largest guide dog-related organization In the United States.