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

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.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

More Dixie Land News

We announce a new Team Member!

Dixie Landers pose with officers of College of Charleston Delta Gamma Sorority

Officers of the College of Charleston Delta Gamma Sorority pose during a presentation with Dixie Land Secretary/Treasurer Laurel Jean, Vice President Audrey Gunter and Audrey's new guide, Jesse.

Master Jesse Gunter, a handsome 2 year old yellow lab was delivered to his new mom, (and our Vice President) Audrey on the afternoon of Thursday, November 11, 2010.  The bond began almost immediately as the two lived, played and worked together at the Florida campus and training facilities of Southeastern Guide Dogs.

Audrey had labored over the decision of when she should retire her first guide, Zack, also a Southeastern boy.  Those two had shared the past 8 years as an inseparable team as they traveled all across the USA on business and in Ministry.  Indeed, it was Zack who first led Audrey to God, literally and figuratively, leaving a positive public image wherever they went!  Whether lobbying for a new guide dog protection law; creating an ADA-compliant policy for an upstate hospital; teaching sensitivity and awareness to a school, business or organization; or sharing their testimony to an attentive church congregation, theirs was a unique team of devotion, intelligence and commitment.

Zack's steps had begun to slow down back in 2009, but Audrey attributed his altered speed to his adjusting to her hip and leg injury.  When Zack began to illustrate difficulty upon boarding a car, Audrey knew it was time for him to spend his time playing ball and holding down the sofa, which he is doing extremely well.

Jesse, a loving, yet lively young pup, continues to endear himself to his new mom daily.  Despite the fact the two have been together for less than 3 months, the trainers at Southeastern proclaim they work together as though they'd been together for years.  Jesse loves to work and he loves the praise his mom gives him every time he does something right, which is all the time.  When not working, you can find Jesse playing with "Mr. Squeakers", his blue rubber bone; chewing on one of his many chew bones; playing tug with his big brother or just sitting in his mom's lap as the two curl up together in their recliner, with Zack nearby on the sofa.   

Dinner in the Dark-An Eye-Opening Experience!

Nancy, Audrey, Shelby, Taylor and Brianna

Dixie Land President, Nancy Moore and Vice President, Audrey Gunter, pose with blind youth of the Lowcountry (Shelby, Taylor and Brianna).

Dixie Land Guide Dog Users coupled with the many ministries of Grace United Methodist Church and Music by Laurel Jean and sponsored by the Association for the Blind, worked together for a very successful evening of food, music, fellowship, entertainment and awareness.

youth training for dinner in the dark

Grace youth learn to be sighted guides as part of their orientation for Dinner In The Dark.

Happy, helpful volunteers met our guests at the door with blindfolds (prepared by some of Grace's Circle Clubs) and bibs (prepared by Grace's Youth).  Pre-trained sighted guides then escorted the blindfolded public to their tables where they were served a delicious dinner of spaghetti, salad, garlic bread and banana pudding, (all prepared by Chuck Heller and the United Methodist Men).

Laurel as Emcee

Dixie Land's Secretary/Treasurer, Laurel Jean delighted everyone with her music and quips.  She even included some of the kids she serves with her Chaplaincy for Blind Youth.

Brianna playing her violin

Brianna was quite a hit on her violin and Shelby and Taylor amazed our diners with their vocals.

Taylor singing

Here, Taylor entertains our guests, accompanied by Laurel and assisted by Grace Youth Director, Bruce Philpott.

guests eating


Some folks really got into the spirit of the evening and continued the ordeal of trying to eat by touch.  Some could only handle a few minutes of eating while blindfolded.  Some gave up on using utensils and began shoveling the spaghetti strands in their opened mouths with their sauce-covered fingers. All had a great time and walked out with a new-found understanding of some of the challenges the blindness community confronts daily.  Indeed, our "Dinner in the Dark" has accomplished the original goal of being an awareness-raiser; yet, with all the laughter and jubilant faces, apparently it was also a "fun" raiser as well.

"Paws" to Educate at Top Dog, Orlando!

Pastor Tim blessing guide team

Fellow Dixie Lander, Pastor Tim Barrett, offers a special, individual blessing to one of the guide teams attending Top Dog, 2011 in Orlando, FL.

We'd been planning this weekend for months.  Indeed, we'd been diligently participating in all Dixie Land fund  raisers in an all-out effort to attend Top Dog, Orlando-2011!  Kathleen Trutschel, President of GDUF, asked us to arrive early so we could share our new "Paws to Educate" initiative with the others attending.  Two of Dixie Land's officers, Laurel Jean (Secretary/Treasurer) and Audrey (Vice-president), along with Tim Barrett (a new Dixie Land member), were scheduled to officiate in the "Blessing".

As the time drew closer, our beloved President, Nancy Moore, received the bad news that she could not attend because of medical reasons.  Saddened by her absence, but encouraged by her spirit, we continued with our plans to forge ahead without her.

Finally, "D" (departure) day arrived!  The van was packed to capacity with dogs, a piano, sound equipment, written materials, luggage and, oh, yeah, people!   We actually even had enough room to include 2 local blind teenagers, Brianna Murray and Taylor Jones, both of whom assisted us with the Blessing.  This was really looking towards being a very successful trip.

Brianna reading Scripture for Blessing of the Guides

Here, Brianna reads Scripture for the Blessing.

We arrived at the Four-Corners Sheraton around 6pm that evening.  Immediately, as we walked into the check-in area, we encountered other handlers and their guides, patiently waiting their turns to get their room assignments.  We could tell the desk clerks were somewhat overwhelmed, but they still provided us with excellent service as they learned to "hold their hands in their pockets" and give us directions to various areas.

After checking into our rooms and making our way around dozens and dozens of working, retired and future guide dogs, we found our way to the Top Dog, Orlando-2011 registration desk, where Kathleen and Sally greeted everyone with warmth, love and a smile.  Proudly, Kathleen presented us with the very special "doggie" bags she'd worked so hard to fill.

Shortly thereafter, Kathleen and I met with several others from New York, Missouri, Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida to discuss our "Paws to Educate" initiative and how important it was for all handlers to know their legal rights, responsibilities and recourses when those rights have been violated.  We also noted that it was equally important for business owners to understand that they, too, have rights to protect their establishments and patrons within when we fail to exercise our responsibility to maintain complete control over our guides' behavior, appearance and demeanor. We had a very successful meeting and we all walked away much better prepared and informed.    Friday, it seemed everywhere we went, someone would corner us and ask about how they could spread the word in their hometowns.

Pastor Tim playing Uno with Taylor

There was plenty of time for fun and fellowship. Here, Pastor Tim and Taylor are playing Uno in the Hospitality room!

Jerry Stebbins and Laurel Jean posing

Taylor's great-grandfather (Jerry Stebbins) who drove us, and our secretary Laurel Jean (with her long, white cane, Slim) pose for a photo as they watch to see who will win that Uno game!

Laurel playing for banquet

Saturday night's banquet was the perfect ending to a perfect weekend! Our Laurel Jean provided dinner music as we were being served.

Puppy raisers and handlers from Guide Dog Foundation

Here, devoted puppy raisers and grateful handlers all from Guide Dog Foundation enjoy the evening together.

Thank you, Association for the Blind, for helping Dixie Land to be able to participate in such an enlightening and fun event!

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.