Announcing Top Dog, 2017!

Our friends with Guide Dog Users of Florida are excited to announce program details for Top Dog 2017! The event will take place January 12 thru January 15, 2017, at the Holiday Inn and Suites, across from Universal, in Orlando, FL.

Scroll down or use your screen reader's "find" command to read the latest update from the Top Dog-2017 team!

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.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Top Dog-Orlando Update

Greetings from the Top Dog-2017 team!

This is the final update regarding Top Dog 2017. When next you receive a communication from the Top Dog 2017 team, you will receive the complete program, hotel and event registration information and ground transportation options and other helpful information.

We hope that you have already saved Thursday, January 12 through Sunday, January 15, 2017, for Top Dog 2017.

The event hotel is The Holiday Inn And Suites across from Universal Orlando.

Since there is so much interest in registering for rooms at the Top Dog 2017 hotel, we have decided to provide this information for you at this time.

As far as event registration, that will be available to you by late August or early September.

Let's fill that block of rooms and have to request more.

The event hotel is The Holiday Inn And Suites across from Universal Orlando, 5905 Kirkman Road; Orlando, FL 32819. 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.

It is extremely important that you use the event registration code "top" when registering for a room.

Our program is going to be exciting, educational and enjoyable. During the event, you will have an opportunity to participate in a CPR course for your guides. This event will take place on both Friday morning and afternoon. Each session will be open to the first 20 people who register for it. The cost of this event is $40.00 per person. We are also working on bringing to attendees an airline emergency preparedness presentation that will take place on Friday as well. As usual, the exhibit hall will be open all day on both Friday and Saturday. Directly after a delicious breakfast on Saturday morning, participants may take part in our traditional blessing of the guide dogs. The exhibit hall will be open for the shopping pleasure of those who choose to opt out of the Blessing. Allergies in dogs and their impact on the health, happiness and ability to work at their best is a problem that has confronted or well may confront all of us at some point in our lives. Directly after the Blessing, you will hear from a renouned veterinarian about canine allergies and their treatment. The program will also bring to attendees an opportunity to hear about the latest in way finding technologies and using them with your dogs. During the weekend, you will have an opportunity to make an appointment to take a short walk on the street outside of the hotel in order to receive a firsthand demonstration of the way finding equipment that most interests you. One of the most popular program options at any guide dog related event is the guide dog school update. All guide dog schools have been invited to exhibit at Top Dog 2017 and to participate in the update. All of us have deep concerns about service dog fraud and issues with airline travel. During Top Dog 2017, you will learn from experts about the current status of both of these important issues from the standpoint of the Department of Transportation and the Department of Justice. Our Saturday evening banquet speaker will share a very compelling story that will resonate with all of us. On Sunday morning as we partake of breakfast, we will once again present Guide Dog Tales. This program depends entirely on you and the stories that you bring to us.

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 plated breakfast on Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings, boxed lunches on Friday and Saturday afternoons, and plated dinners on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Registration will be available both online and via telephone . Specific instructions will be provided in the registration and program packet.
We look forward to seeing you in Orlando. Please forward this update far and wide.

Thank you all so much for your interest in and enthusiasm for Top Dog 2017.

Debbie Grubb,
Top Dog 2017 Program Coordinator

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.