Welcome to Dixie Land Guide Dog Users Online, and Top Dog-2019!

We Dixie Land Guide Dog Users are the South Carolina affiliate of Guide Dog Users, Inc. Our tails are wagging! Due to the amazing response to our Top Dog-Charleston, 2019, our event hotel is booked to capacity and we are no longer taking registrations. Our heartfelt thanks to all of our registered attendees! We can't wait to see you in January!
For those of you who cannot attend in person, keep those ears up and stay tuned for our recorded sessions to be announced!

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, December 2, 2018

Top Dog-Charleston, 2019 Agenda.

Hello, pups & peeps;

Thanks to all who have registered for our upcoming "Top Dog-Charleston, '19" and to those who have signed up for our special "hands on" guided tour of Patriots' Point Maritime and Naval Museum.  The response has been tremendous and we do appreciate your support.
Because of popular demand from those who want to know more about what we're going to be doing and who is going to help us do it, we'd like to share the following:
`Schedule of Events

Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019
4:00PM – 8:00PM Registration Suite Opened
4:00PM – 10:00PM Hospitality Suite Opened
4:00PM – 9:30PM Mini Mall & Exhibits Opened
5:30PM – 7:00PM Early Bird Spaghetti Dinner
Dixie Land Guide Dog Users invite all of you "early birds" to a delicious, slap your mama good spaghetti dinner, including salad; garlic bread and a yummy dessert.

Friday, Jan. 18, 2019
10:00AM - 4:00PM Registration Suite Opened
10:00AM – 4:00PM Hospitality Suite Opened
10:00AM – 4:00PM Mini Mall & Exhibits opened
11:30Am  Box Lunch Served
12:15PM  Board Bus for optional tour (Must have ticket to board bus!)
  (12:15PM – 3:45PM Patriots' Point Maritime &              Naval Museum Tour)
5:30PM – 6:15PM Opening Ceremony
6:15PM – 6:30PM Paws 4 Dining room set up
6:30PM – 7:45PM   1st Seating 
7:45PM – 9:00PM   2nd Seating

Wrap your lips around some of the bestest All You Can Eat  Chicken Dinners with macaroni & cheese; red rice & sausage; green beans; sweet tater casserole; rolls; nanner pudding and iced tea you ever did taste.  Our very own Laurel Jean will add to the occasion with her unique style of piano and vocal renderings. We understand there may even be one or two of those "rovering reporters" from the Whimsical Guide Dog Radio to  lighten things up!

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Our Programs:
8:30AM – 9:45AM  "Thank you, God!"  God was the very First to be invited to Top Dog-Charleston and we're sure you'll agree He's showed up and gonna show out!  Join us as we celebrate all of God's awesome bounty at The Blessing.   Dixie Land's very own Laurel Jean will get us all in the mood with her hand-clapping, finger-snapping; toe-tapping, heartfelt and poignant musical tributes to those former guides that have retired within the past 2 years.   There will be plenty of tissues available as she conducts her special "audible candlelight tribute" to our 2 and 4 legged friends that have crossed over Rainbow Bridge.  Pastor Phil Glick a former US Navy Chaplain and retired United Methodist minister and Deb Trevino, a Presbyterian Minister and fellow guide dog user will offer personal individual blessings to all who wish to participate, including future guides; current guide teams; and anyone else who would like a special blessing. We'll have several Stephen's Ministers throughout the room to offer prayer support as needed.  There will also be a "Prayer Station" in the rear of the room to offer closure and comfort for those who have had to say "good-bye" to their former guides.  Each participant will receive a heart-shaped tac pin with a tactile cross in the middle to commemorate the occasion.
10:00Am – 10:45AM  "Thank You, Veterinarians!"  Dr. Nicole Constantine, Charleston Veterinary House Calls, will be on hand to answer your questions and address various issues pertaining to our ongoing quest to keep our guides healthy and safe.
11:00AM – 12:15PM  "Thank you, Patriots!"  To celebrate the 90th anniversary of the guide dog movement in this country with the founding of The Seeing Eye, and to pay tribute to the blinded veterans both here and in Europe who had the courage after sacrificing so much for their countries, to take their lives in their own hands by picking up that harness that links so many with the freeing "Love in the Lead" of a guide dog, Lukas Franck, COMS, GDMI, Senior Special Projects Consultant, The Seeing Eye, will present the history of these brave warriors and their guides from its beginnings in Germany through to today.  Jenine Stanley, Guide Dog Foundation and America's VetDogs will present a brief overview of the unique training processes that may be employed in training a veteran who is blind to accommodate the effects of his/her war-sustained injuries.  Tim Hornik, Founder, CEO Blind Not Alone LLC; will share his own personal story of how he got from the war sacrifice for all of us to today.  Wounded warriors attending Top Dog 2019 will be invited to share their own uniquely moving stories of fear evolving into courage to live victoriously once again with their guide dogs.   
12:15PM – 1:30PM  Box lunch served
1:30PM – 2:15PM  " Thank you, Pups!"  In an attempt to end fear and mistrust and to bring about a sense of community of ADA recognized service dog users, Toni Eames MS, President and Co-Founder, International Association of Assistance Dog Partners; Veronica Morris PhD, President, psychiatric Service Dog Partners; Brad Morris, Legislative and Public Affairs Director, psychiatric Service Dog Partners; Jenine Stanley, Consumer Relations Coordinator, Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc.  and America's VetDogs; will share with us the history of the service animal movement that began with us, the tasks that their animals are trained to do to mitigate an aspect of their disabilities, and hopefully help all of us to take those first steps onto a path of acceptance, understanding, collaboration  and trust.
2:30pM – 3:15PM  "Thank you, Puppy Raisers!"  WE LOVE PUPPY RAISERS and we invite all puppy raisers from all schools who wish to share some of their most memorable moments with some of the pups they've raised!  Be prepared to laugh and cry and laugh and cry again.  (Tissues will be available)
3:30PM – 4:45PM   "Thank you,  schools!"  We are thrilled to have so many national guide dog schools participating in our event and each representative will be given time to update us on what's happening on their campus. Becky Davidson, former President of GDUI will moderate this extensive panel of experts to insure each school has ample opportunity to participate.   There will also be time for Q&A, so be sure to have your questions ready.

6:30PM – 7:45PM 1st seating  Dinner
7:45PM – 9:00PM 2nd seating-Dinner
Time to treat yourselves to another good 'ol southern style helping of Jamie Westendorf's Frogmore Stew includes shrimp, sausage , taters and corn on the cob cooked in a delicious secret concoction only found in Charleston; lip-smacking good barbecue and all the fixin's.

7:00PM – 10:00PM  Loosen them thar harness handles as well as your belts while Heather Rice, a talented pianist and recording artist entertains us all with her "jazzy" tickling of those ivories and unique lilting lyrics as we convert our Meeting Room to the "Top Dog House of Jazz!"

Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019

8:00Am-9:00Am  "Thanks for the Memories"  Join Jenine Stanley as she encourages folks to share some of their favorite experiences with their guides.
9:30Am – 10:45AM  "Thanks, God!"  Pastors Trevino and Glick will offer a non-denominational Christian service praising and thanking our God for all He has given us.  Of course, it wouldn't be "church" without music and do we have some "church music" for you!  Holy harness handles, it's Laurel Jean again!  Fasten your seatbelts.  You know you're about to share one of the most uncanny experiences few have ever witnessed, 'specially with Laurel at the piano!  Yes, sir and ma'am; pups and peeps, we'll have our very own "God Squad" on deck, so we just might wind up with one of them thar Sunday-go-to-meeting faith revivals we've all heard so much about!
11:00AM  "Thank you, guests!" It's time once again to say, "So long ... 'til the next time." We say "so long" and not "goodbye," because once you attend Top Dog, you know that you'll have lots of friends fur-ever! Although our tongues may be hanging and our tails may be dragging, we hope you will have had a howling good time here at Top Dog-Charleston, 2019!

The preregistration deadline for Top Dog is December 5, 2018. Please stay tuned for Top Dog highlights and recorded sessions from this weekend full of fun, food, fellowship and furries!

Friday, July 27, 2018

Midsummer "Pupdates"

Oconee County Bark Buddies 4H Group visits with Audrey and Laurel via Skype

We Dixie Land Guide Dog Users have kept our "paws 2 the pavement" this year as together we discover new paths toward education, advocacy and keeping our families focused on each other. Earlier this spring, we were contacted by the Oconee County, SC 4H Program. The program's Bark Buddies Club has been studying service dogs and wanted to learn more about guide dogs in particular. Audrey and Laurel made an appearance at the group's May meeting via Skype. It was our organization's first time presenting via Skype, and we look forward to many more presentations like this in the future.

As many of our readers already know,  Charleston will be the host city for Top Dog-2019. The Southeast Region Top Dog Workshops are a collaborated effort among Guide Dog Users of Florida, Georgia and Dixie Land Guide Dog Users here in South Carolina. It's Top Dog Number 10 and it's coming home again, so be sure to check this site regularly for updates!

It has been our joy to assist our extended family of Guide Dog Users Inc. in shipping healing prayer blankets to our brothers and sisters in the blindness community affected by personal hardship, the illness or loss of a human family member or that of a current or retired guide dog. The blankets come from the kind folks at Epiphany Catholic Church in Louisville, KY and were first introduced to our extended GDUI family at the organization's 2017 National convention in Sparks, Nevada. These blankets are truly a blessing to all who receive them. Many within the blindness community deal with the challenges of isolation. The majority of guide dog users are on a limited income. When a guide dog retires and it is time for the handler to receive a new dog, most cannot keep their previous guide with them. There is a desperate need for blessing and closure among the worldwide community of guide dog users, and we are grateful for this opportunity to empathize with our fellow handlers and their guides.

The National GDUI Convention took place this year in St. Louis, MO. We were pleased to collaborate on promotional writing for this event. The imaginary antics of the "Nylaphone Pawty Line" and the "Whimsical Guide Dog Radio" brought smiles and wags alike as the journey continued with those "rovering reporters, Fred Floppears and Colleen Curleytail." We were honored beyond words by our extended family, as our President was recognized with the distinguished Lieberg-Metz Award for writing and media promotions of the guide dog movement.

In North Carolina, Dixie Landers Glenn and Donna Permar have just returned from the national American Council of the Blind/GDUI Convention. They continue to make a difference in their community, doing presentations to the Go Durham new bus operators on how to interact with customers who are blind as well as presentations to the Duke School of Nursing on interacting with patients who are blind or low vision.

Kimberly, Laurel and Audrey present for Bark Camp Pet Partners

Back here in Charleston, children are enjoying the many learning opportunities offered by summer day camps throughout the Lowcountry area. Here, Kimberly with guide Fonzie and Audrey with guide Jessie are shown talking with sighted students ages twelve to fifteen who attend the Pet Partners camp offered by the Charleston Animal Society. The kids always ask a lot of great questions, but the highlight of our visit is the off-harness time that the kids enjoy with Jessie and Fonzie. Our thanks to Laurel with her trusty white cane "Lady Liberty" for moderating these talks.

Bark campers visit with Kimberly and Fonzie

Kimberly has been teaching sensitivity and awareness to her therapeutic riding instructors. Brianna is in New York, helping young people navigate the college environment independently for the first time. Sheryl continues to be active in her church and on her farm. Across the miles or just down the road, Dixie Landers are promoting one community at large among the sighted and the blind.

Please visit often as we share more posts like this one.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Magic of Top Dog.

Picture of baby Jessie.

The kennel was extremely big and unbelievably quiet.  All of the older pups were curled up safely in their beds dreaming of breakfast.   They'd had a very busy day learning how to be guide dogs and they were understandably tired.

The smaller pups were asleep next door.  They, too were tired but for other reasons.  They'd had the arduous task of running and romping and playing all day-with, of course the frequent licks of appreciation they'd planted on those human volunteers.  There was an occasional sound of muffled barks or dancing paws as they relived that day's activities in their sleep.  The hour was late and morning would be there soon.  Every little pup in that kennel was taking advantage of a much needed rest…except for that certain little yellow fellow with those fetching, big eyes and that adorable smile whenever anyone approached him.  All one had to do was to simply call his name and snap their fingers and Jessie's long, lean tail would immediately begin to thump and he'd begin to bounce from one side to another.

Jessie couldn't sleep that night.  He was just too excited.  He'd overheard one of the trainers talking about teaching them to be guide dogs and to be able to travel extensively with their new handlers.  He wasn't sure exactly where "extensively" was, but he surely liked the idea of going there one day!  Immediately Jessie's nose began to twitch and his tail started thumping the cool concrete kennel floor.

All of a sudden, from over in the far corner Jessie thought he saw some sort of figure appear.  He needed to go investigate what this was before the others awoke.  Cautiously Jessie sort of sidled up to the fog-like presence when the form began to materialize and he found himself nose to nose with a beautiful Labrador retriever donning some sort of special halo-like head dress and sporting a shining long wand.

"Ah…who…who are you?"  Jessie's curiosity was about to get the best of him.

"Hello, little Jessie," the figure replied. "I'm your fairy Guide Mother.  My name is One der ful, but you can call me 'One'.  

"Why are you here, Miss Fairy Guide Mother, One?"

"Well, little fellow, you summoned me with the double twitch of your nose and the thump, thump, thump of your tail.   You seemed to have stumbled upon the secret code and now I must grant you a wish.  So, tell me little Jessie, what would you like your fairy Guide Mother to do for you tonight?"

"Well…Miss Fairy Guide Mother One", I overheard the trainers talking about the older guys becoming well-behaved, professionally trained guide dogs and I've decided that's what I want to be.  I promise to be really, really good; to do exactly what they say and work very hard.  Can you make me a guide dog?"

"Oh, Jessie!  You silly pup!  Of course, I can make you a guide dog and if you work really, really hard like you said, you can be one of the best guide dogs ever!"

"Oh, Miss Fairy Guide Mother One, do you think I'll be able to travel to "Extensively" someday?  Maybe even get to go to that heavenly place I've heard so many of the big guys talking about called, "Top Dog"?"

"Not only will you get to go to Top Dog, Jessie, you'll be part of the inspiration for making Top Dog bigger and better!  Pups and peeps from all over the country and beyond will recognize you and you'll even take part in one of the most important events there, called "The Blessing".  You'll help your human mom, her friends and yours in planning, preparing and even presenting several Top Dogs, especially when it comes time to honor those newly retired guides and the 2 and 4 legged friends that have crossed 'Rainbow Bridge'  All who will have ever attended Top Dog-Charleston, '19 will know your name, little Jessie!"

"Oh, Miss Fairy Guide Mother One, I can hardly stand the excitement!  Will my person love and care for me like my puppy raiser folks?"

"No, little Jessie.  She'll love you even more.  You two will work together so well and so long that you'll become part of each other!"

"Will she let me hold her and sit on her lap, Miss Fairy Guide Mother One?'"

"Oh, yes, little Jessie!  She will always praise you while you're guiding her safely and she'll absolutely beam with happiness each time you sit in her lap.  You two will work together for a long, long time and you'll always-always take very good care of each other!   Her heart will open up to you the very first time she touches your head and her love for you will grow stronger with each day's passing.  You will soon find that you two were a match made in heaven and a true blessing for one another and the world! She will tell folks that you were sent to her from God, himself." 

"Oh, Miss Fairy Guide Mother, I am so excited!  Please tell me more about Top Dog-'19 and all I can expect when I get there."

"It's getting late, little Jessie, and you have lots to do tomorrow if you're going to be a guide dog.  However, I can tell you that you will meet lots and lots of new friends there…like, Copper and Astro and Alexa and you will see some of your old buddies, like Houston and Fonzie and Hopps!  Lots of people will be there from lots of guide dog schools.  In fact, there will be a workshop dedicated to the guide dog schools' updates and how they train their handlers to successfully work such traffic hazards as roundabouts and islands.   You will truly share your mom's emotions as she assists in the Blessing and  when those puppyraisers begin sharing their experiences raising their charges your little tail will almost wag off your bottom!  You'll feel like your little heart will burst with pride when your very own vet begins to talk and answer questions."

"Will there be lots for us guide dogs to do there, Miss Fairy Guide Mother, One?"

"Silly boy!  You'll have your little paws full taking care of your handlers!  Remember, little Jessie, they won't be able to see and they'll need you to guide them."

"Will there be lots of food there, too?"

"Oh, yes!  Unfortunately, though, you'll only be able to enjoy the aromas, though.  You'll smell that delicious baked spaghetti the first night and your little nose will wiggle almost off your muzzle when you get a whiff of that scrump-ta-dee-li-shus fried chicken, red rice and sausage; green beans and home-made macaroni and cheese on Opening Night!  Saturday evening's aromas of Frogmore Stew and Barbecue will tantalize your olfactory nerve beyond your imagination. You'll even be tempted by the delectable scents of those box lunches served Friday and Saturday, but, because you'll be such a great guide and good boy for your mom, you won't even attempt a taste of any of it."

"Gosh, Miss Fairy Guide Mother, one, it all sounds so wonderful!  I can hardly wait!  Tell me again when and where Top Dog-Charleston, '19 will be held."

"Well, little man, it sounds like a long time away but it really isn't. It'll be here before you know it,  January 18-20, 2019 at the Comfort Suites West of the Ashley, Charleston, SC! So, little man, it's not too early to start preparing! I'll be looking forward to seeing you and all your old and new friends there!"

Make your plans to meet Jessie and his friends at Top Dog-Charleston, January 18-20, 2019, Comfort Suites West of the Ashley, 2080 Savannah Hwy., Charleston, SC 29407 (843) 769-9850. Be sure to mention that you're attending Top Dog in order to take advantage of that special nightly rate of $89.95! We look forward to seeing you there! Stay tuned for more details!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Announcing Top Dog-2019!

Audrey and guide Jessie

From our President, Audrey Gunter...

"Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina in the morning."  Says the writer of the song.  As a native bred and born Charlestonian, or "Geechie" as we are called, there are no prettier words or more meaningful tune .

I can remember as a young'un from the downtown projects awakening every Sunday morning to the melodious announcements of those hard working paper carriers trying to make a few pennies by selling their newspapers, "Sunday Morning News and Courier-get your paper now before the paper boy goes!"

On those rare delightful days that Mother didn't have to go to work, she'd lure us out of bed with the savory aroma of sausage and gravy or that unmistakable tantalizing smell of thick bacon sizzling in that big old cast iron frying pan and her special cat head biscuits baking in the oven.

Even in some of our typically warm winters, we could hear those red birds and Carolina wrens proudly chirping their sweet, Southern songs.  Later that older than dirt gentleman would announce his arrival to our neighborhood while identifying those scrumptious, fresh vegetables piled high up on that ancient wooden, green hand-made cart he crafted from some  found planks and antique metal wheels.  If I close my eyes and listen really hard, deep within the recesses of my mind's ears I can hear his raspy voice crying out, "Veg-e-tables!  Veg-e-tables!  I got fresh greens!  I got sweet potatoes!  I got dem good ol' sweet on-yons!"

Those sweet southern selections of sentimental songs will forever be inside my head and heart.  Even today I can smell the nearby ocean and feel the salty breeze as it wafts inland towards our home.  Somewhere in the distance rings some of the many church bells, announcing the hours or their portions.  Our neighbors always greet us with a genuine, strongly Gullah-accented, "'morning, ma'am! Y'all be careful on that road, now!"  

Sometimes, on those very special days God wants to reward us with a true southern treat, we can hear the animated choir of the nearby AME church clapping their hands as they proudly confess their faith and love through their lyrical spiritual hymns.

Charleston is, indeed, filled with exclusive sights and extraordinary  sounds touting heart-felt honest emotions!  Strangers proclaim they can feel our love the moment they arrive to our "Holy City by the Sea!"

Some of you--several hundred actually--have visited my beloved historic city and have witnessed some or all of the above.  You have heard the statistics that Charleston is the "friendliest city in the country" and you truly understand why. 

For those who have yet to encounter the Charleston experience, let me be the first to invite you to our upcoming  Southeast Regional Top Dog Workshop, to be held back here January 17-20, 2019.  For that matter, I do hope those of you who have visited us for previous "Top Dogs" will plan to once again come back home!

This will be our 10th "Top Dog" event and we are delighted that the kind folks of Georgia Guide Dog Users and Guide Dog Users of Florida have agreed to let Dixie Land bring it back home, to its roots.  So, this is number 10 and it's coming home again!  Woohoo! 

Of course, ours will be a collaborated effort between the 3 affiliates, chocked full of fun, food, fellowship, and, of course lots and lots of furries!

We're looking forward to hearing those inviting, familiar ;melodic voices; wrapping our lips around some of that good, ol' fashion lowcountry cuisine we're so famous for; honoring those who are so dear to us and remembering those who have retired or passed on at "The Blessing";  catching up with the latest trending about blindness and guide dogs; strolling through our vast exhibit halls; enjoying a snack and/or beverage in our jam-packed Hospitality Suite; buying a couple of "braffle" tickets and, of course, checking out all the great goodies we got in our registration bags!  Quite naturally, we'll hear from lots of the "important" guide dog schools and there will be plenty of tissue available when we hear those heart-felt, emotion-filled personal puppy stories from lots of our puppy raisers. In other words, we can hardly wait to see YOU again!

We're in the process of "sharpening our pencils" to insure you get every cent of your money's worth and will bring you more details as they become available.  For right now, though, we  can share the dates and location.  You'll need to call the hotel directly to secure your reservations.

Dates:  January 17 through January 20, 2019
Hotel: Comfort Suites West of the Ashley
            2080 Savannah Hwy. Charleston, SC 29407
             843 769 9850

The management and staff are elated that we are returning "home" and are looking forward to working with us once again.  In fact, Miss Charleen and Miss Angela both said to give you all their love!

All of their  suites come furnished with sofa beds, microwaves and refrigerators. Don't forget to pack your gym  clothes and swimsuits 'cause there's a heated, indoor pool and a stocked exercise room on the first floor. The management is  offering us the incredible nightly rate of only $89.95 plus tax and that rate will be good from Monday, January 14 through Monday, January 21, 2019, but we have to call that hotel directly and say that we're with Top Dog to take advantage of that special nightly rate. 

So please start pinching your pennies and wadding your Washingtons!  Plan to make the Charleston Scene in 2019!  We really want to see you there.   It just wouldn't be "Top Dog" without you. 

If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to call me from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. EST.  I'm always delighted to talk with you.


Audrey & Jessie 843 571 0737

Friday, January 26, 2018

"Paws 4" A Look Back at 2017.

Hi y'all! Our tails are wagging with excitement as we "paws 4" a look back at our 2017!

Guide Dog Users of Florida hosted Top Dog-2017 in Orlando. The South Carolina affiliate members of Dixie Land Guide Dog Users provided administrative and promotional assistance as needed in preparation for this event. Just a few short months later, we were  collaborating on promotional writing for the National convention of Guide Dog Users, Inc., introducing the imaginary antics of those renowned, "rovering reporters, Fred Floppears and Colleen Curleytail."

Audrey blessing Andrea and her guide

At Top Dog Orlando, Dixie Landers were asked to participate in "The Blessing of the Guides," one of the highlights of Top Dog since that first workshop was held in 2006. Several of our Dixie Land members and their guides caught the early train to Orlando, FL for the weekend's convention. As our President Audrey Gunter assisted with "The Blessing,"  she was reminded of just how much her fellow blind handlers need the opportunity to celebrate the lives of their guide dogs. The majority of guide dog users are on a limited income. When a guide dog retires and it is time for the handler to receive a new dog, most cannot keep their previous guide with them. There is a desperate need for blessing and closure among the worldwide community of guide dog users.

"The Blessing of the Guides" at Top Dog inspired   us to produce an audio church service.  The service, titled simply "The Blessing" would speak to the hearts of guide dog users, past, present and future guide dogs, and all who love them. "The Blessing" was delivered to an international audience via the Internet. For those who do not have the Internet, CD copies have been made available upon request. We've received responses from guide dog users throughout the US and Canada, and prayer requests came in from around the globe in remembrance of countless faithful guides who have crossed over "Rainbow Bridge." This presentation was highlighted on the Email lists of the national organization, Guide Dog Users, Inc., and was also featured on the Internet radio program, "Spotlight On Assistance Dogs." We have been asked to consider producing "The Blessing" on a regular basis. For a link to "The Blessing" and a copy of the show notes, just send an Email to dixielandguides@gmail.com with "The Blessing" in the subject line.

Gathering of the Friends of Bartimaeus

The year 2017 marked the five-year anniversary of the Friends of Bartimaeus Christian Outreach for the Blind here in Charleston. This outreach is hosted by Calvary Lutheran Church and is one of over fifty of its kind throughout the United States. Friends of Bartimaeus offers a monthly gathering, usually on the last Friday of the month. People who are blind come from all around the Charleston metro area to enjoy a nutritious, delicious hot meal, devotionals, music and fellowship in a safe, non-threatening environment. At the end of each meeting, guests in need are even given a bag of groceries to take home. As  we are among the founders of this ministry, it is always a blessing for us to assist with music, leadership and prayer support for the people of all ages and their families who are touched by this outreach. Last February, we even assisted with catering and leading the event while our regular sighted cooks were out of the country on a mission trip.

Laurel standing on the deck of the Spirit of Carolina tall ship.

In the spring, the tall ships came to Charleston. One of our officers, Laurel, enjoyed an afternoon cruise experience on the Spirit of Carolina. This ship is one of several replicas of those which actually sailed in the 1800's. Laurel even got to help hoist the sails! Our thanks to Laurel for her enthusiasm for representing the blindness community in an environment considered not to be accessible by many people with disabilities.

Gathered at the Black Fedora Comedy Mystery Theater.

As part of our "Keeping Families Focused" initiative, we enjoyed an outing to the Black Fedora Comedy Mystery Theater here in Charleston for Dixie Land Members and friends. The spontaneous, interactive format of Black Fedora provided a wonderful opportunity for us to focus on our friendship. The evening was jam packed with twisted plots and a lot of laughter. A special thanks to the Black Fedora management and staff for making us and our guides feel so welcome!

Audrey, Laurel and Kimberly presenting for day campers at BARK Camp

As part of our "Paws 2 Educate" Initiative, Dixie Land Guide Dog Users once again assisted with coordination and participation in presenting for area summer day camps. Together, we educated sighted children--ages seven thru fifteen--on the subjects of Braille, proper etiquette when meeting a blind person--with or without a service dog--, accessible technology and much more. Our thanks to the Charleston Animal Society for welcoming us to another series of BARK Camps, and to Patty Smith for bringing us back to the East Side Community Center, where there is always a lot of excitement, and hugs for everyone!

Laurel and Audrey with summer day campers at East Side Community Center

We continue to be available to serve as peer mentors for our blind brothers and sisters, and those who are in the process of losing their sight. Sometimes we meet in person, but most of our mentoring takes place via phone or Internet. We consider it an honor and a gift to hear Sofia's confidence growing as she speaks, or to witness Catherine learning to solve many of her own problems. We personally find that we are most often the ones who are mentored, and we thank God for every opportunity that He gives us to shine His Light in this way.

Dixie Landers at James Island County Park

In the fall, we got our families together for an afternoon of "Pizza In The Park." After a time of food and fellowship at James Island County Park, several of our members, their families and friends headed for the lake and the paddle boats!

Sheryl, her husband and grandson pulling away from dock in a paddle boat

In December,  we provided music for the Christmas parties of the Friends of Bartimaeus and also for the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired of South Carolina. Many guests in attendance, say that these celebrations served as their only means of socializing and celebrating the season with friends.

Audrey turned 70 this past December and we celebrated her with a birthday party. In lieu of gifts, Audrey asked her friends to bring nonperishable food items to help restock the Friends of Bartimaeus grocery pantry. Thanks to an overwhelming turnout of support, those pantry shelves were completely filled by the truckload of groceries delivered to Calvary Lutheran Church.
Already, 2018 promises to be a very busy and fulfilling year as we prepare to bring Top Dog back home to its Charleston roots in January of 2019! We hope you will visit often for more updates. Thanks for joining us in promoting one community at large and helping to make the world a better place.

About Us

My photo
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.