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.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Spring and Summer Highlights

Audrey talks with scouts

Our president, Audrey Gunter, talks with Lowcountry Boy Scouts at this year’s Spring Rally as part of our “Paws 2 Educate” Initiative. We Dixie Land Guide Dog Users believe that the key to a better understanding of the blindness community among the community at large lies in our creating a positive presence within that community. As young people learn to drive, they are taught that blind pedestrians have the right of way, but they are often not taught how to identify a blind pedestrian. This gathering of the Lowcountry Boy Scouts provided a wonderful opportunity for us to share this information with over one hundred future drivers! We also assisted the boys in earning their merit badges for Disabilities Awareness.

art lesson on the square

As the summer began, we gathered at Francis Marion Square for an afternoon of music, fellowship, food and art appreciation. This gathering was part of our “Keeping Families Focused” initiative. Local Artist Danita Cole gave Dixie Landers, our families and guests the opportunity to create our own unique tactile art using melted bees wax of different colors with a variety of objects and cutout shapes. Lunch was provided, thanks to the sponsorship of Retina Consultants of Charleston.

Pastor Dave laughing with Shelby and Laurel

We were honored by several guests who accepted our invitation to attend this event. Here, our Secretary/Treasurer Laurel Jean talks with Shelby, one of our “outa sight” youth, and Pastor Dave Andrus, Director of St. Louis, Missouri’s Lutheran Blind Mission. Pastor Dave was visiting Charleston to help start a Christian outreach center for the blind here in the Lowcountry.

local NFB president Nia Green creating her artwork

We were also honored to have in attendance Miss Nia Green, president of our local chapter of the National Federation of the Blind.

Laurel with Pastor Ed and Pastor Dave at Calvary Lutheran Church

Here, Laurel Jean poses with Pastor Ed Grant of Calvary Lutheran Church, Charleston, SC and Pastor Dave Andrus, Lutheran Blind Mission, St. Louis, MO. Dixie Landers have been actively participating in the beginning of the Friends of Bartimaeus Christian Outreach Center for the Blind, one of over 60 such outreach centers throughout the United States. Our thanks to everyone at Calvary Lutheran Church for serving as the host site and supporting church for this unique ministry!

Taylor demonstrates Pacmate to summer day campers

Our Vice President, Taylor Jones Stebbins, demonstrates accessible technology to Living History Summer Day Campers, showing them how he can play computer games as they do. The games are sound-based and allow him to use his keyboard with speech and Braille output to navigate them.

Dixie Land presents to Summer Bark Camp

Dixie Land’s “Paws 2 Educate” Initiative played an active role in two summer day camps this year. Our thanks to Miss De with the ASPCA along with Miss Patti Smith and the City of Charleston, for making us part of their summer camp schedules!

Brianna's guide takes a break at Bark Camp

People rarely get to see a guide dog out of harness. Here, fellow Dixie Lander Brianna Murray allows her guide to take a break during one of our visits to the ASPCA Summer Bark Camp.

Laurel demonstrates braille at Bark Camp

Also at Bark Camp, Laurel Jean introduces day campers to Braille, helping them to write their names and showing them the Braille alphabet.

Audrey and Brianna present to summer day campers

Back at the Living History Day Camp, Audrey and Brianna talk about guide dogs and answer questions.

Laurel reads to summer day campers

Laurel shares more about Braille literacy by reading to the campers. As the children tell “Miss Laurel” about the pictures in the book and she reads to them, important lessons are learned about how the blind and the sighted can work together.

Laurel teaches sighted guide to summer day campers

Laurel demonstrates the “sighted guide technique,” the proper way to assist and walk with someone who does not see.

Taylor demonstrates cane to summer day campers

Taylor demonstrates the proper use of a long, white cane.

Brianna and her guide hang out with kids at Rehobeth UMC

Brianna and Lacy take a break and enjoy spending time with children after a special Worship service at Rehobeth United Methodist Church, McBeth, SC.

Laurel sings with kids at Rehobeth UMC

Our thanks to the folks at Rehobeth for scheduling Music By Laurel Jean and making her invited Dixie Land guests feel so welcome! The fall schedule already has our “paws to the pavement.” Watch for more highlights like these! Thanks for your ongoing support!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Top Dog 2013 registration information.

TOP DOG Registration Now Open

The Southeast Regional Top dog workshop, January 11-13, 2013 is coming to the Hostess City, Savannah, Georgia, and registration is now open.

Georgia Guide Dog Users, DixieLand Guide Dog Users and Guide Dog Users of Florida will welcome guide dog handlers, puppy raisers and many dogs and puppies from the Southeast and around the country to the Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites Gateway Conference Center at 17 Gateway Blvd. East in Savannah for three days of workshops, exhibits, fine Southern food and hospitality, an optional city tour, and the chance to visit with old friends and to make new ones.

The complete schedule of events will be circulated in advance; what follows are program highlights:
A Top Dog tradition, the Blessing of the Guide Dogs
A panel discussion on current advocacy issues for guide dog handlers
A veterinarian speaking on the basics, ears, teeth and flea prevention
An interactive session on peak experiences with our dogs
An optional Red Cross certification course in canine first aid
A banquet speaker who will inspire us with her story

Online registration is available at the website, http://topdogworkshop.org/ or by phone and through the mail. The registration phone number for registrar Sally Benjamin is (850) 588-9070. The registration cost for Top Dog 2013 is $25.00 per person.

When you register you will be able to choose two lunch and two dinner meals priced very affordably and you may opt for a Friday afternoon tour of Savannah’s historic district for a cost of $25.00.

Room rates at the Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites Gateway will be $89.00 per night, plus 13% sales tax. These conference rates will apply from Thursday, January 10, 2013 through Sunday January 13, 2013, as well as three nights prior to and following the event. If you choose to, you could stay as many as nine nights at the special event rate. Up to four people can share these comfortably-sized rooms and a hot breakfast is included in the room rate. Located off of exit 94 from I95, the hotel is just 15 miles from the Savannah International Airport and a similar distance from both the Amtrak and Greyhound stations. It is located approximately 18 miles from Savannah’s downtown and historic district.

Make reservations at the Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites by calling the hotel directly at 912-925-2700, making certain to mention group code GGD (Good Good Dog). The event is also listed under the name of Georgia Guide Dog Users. The deadline for registration and hotel reservations is December 11, 2012. Make your plans now to come to Savannah in January 2013. See y’all here.

For further event information or for exhibitors or registration forms, send emails to, <2013topdog@gmail.com>

Marj Schneider, Event Coordinator

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Hot Dog! It's Top Dog!

It's coming! It's coming! It's coming! Hot dog! It's Top Dog!

Top Dog Savannah is scheduled for January 11, 12 and 13, 2013. While
plans are currently being fine-tuned, Top Dog Savannah is sure to be
top notch. Start packing your bags and pinching your pennies, and tell
your friends to do the same.

Savannah, Georgia, here we come!

More details coming soon!

Keeping Families Focused

Dixie Landers and friends gather at bowling outing

On a Saturday morning in February, Dixie Landers, friends and families of Lowcountry blind youth gathered at Charleston’s AMF Lanes on Savannah Hwy. for the first of ten weeks of bowling! This unique and wonderful outreach was introduced by Peggy Sudol, one of our sighted members who is also an active team member of Dragon Boat Charleston. DBC enjoys bowling on their off-season and this year, the team voted to sponsor a league which would represent the blindness community.

Shelby with dragon boat team members

It was agreed that this league would be inclusive rather than exclusive. We encouraged blind participants young and old to bring sighted family members for an outing of fun and fellowship! Bowlers ranged in age from seven to seventy-five. Dragon Boat Charleston, AMF Lanes and Dixie Land GDU worked together to provide free games, ball and shoe rental for up to 15 people each week. The ten-week bowling outing began and ended with a pizza party, and as a special treat, DBC provided participants with complimentary custom-fitted bowling balls (and bags) for keeps!

eight-year-old Blaze bowling

Our youngest bowlers were seven and eight years old. Eight-year-old Blaze (who is sighted) enjoyed perfecting his skills on the lanes.

seven-year-old Dalton bowling with his dad

Meanwhile, seven-year-old Dalton’s dad, David, introduced his son to the game, made accessible to him by bumpers and a bowling ramp (the rail seen in front of him in the picture).

Laurel preparing to bowl

Our Secretary/Treasurer, Laurel Jean, used Slim (her long, white cane) to line up with the lane in front of her. Laurel has the unique ability to score a gutter ball even with the bumpers up!

In February, Dixie Land hosted and sponsored a picnic at James Island County Park with food, fellowship and fun for all ages. Thanks again to Peter Smith and the Charleston Fliers who made this picnic day extra special with tandem bike rides for everyone!

Our bowling outing and picnic were so successful that Dixie Land Guide Dog Users, Inc. is proud to announce our latest initiative, “Keeping Families Focused.” We know firsthand that blindness affects the entire family. Our goal in creating this initiative is to offer more activities which include everyone and keep families focused on the core unit of the family, rather than the disability of just one member.

Thanks also to other sponsors, Retina Consultants of Charleston and The Association for the Blind of South Carolina, we have already scheduled our first official outing, a very unique “hands-on” art exhibit and workshop.

Stay tune for more posts, and thanks for your ongoing support.

Paws 4 an update!

Dixie Land officers Audrey, Taylor and Laurel

Pictured here are Dixie Land officers, President Audrey Gunter with guide Jesse, Vice President Taylor Jones Stebbins with long white cane Thumper, and Secretary/Treasurer Laurel Jean with long white cane Slim. Thanks to all of the dedicated members of Dixie Land Guide Dog Users Inc., along with our generous volunteers and sponsors, our “Paws 2 Educate” Initiative keeps going and growing! In early November, we had the privilege of presenting for Boy Scouts in the Charleston area as they prepared for their Disabilities Awareness Badges. The boys asked a lot of really great questions as Audrey discussed guide dogs, Taylor demonstrated access technology and Laurel Jean shared her music, along with interesting facts about cane travel and Braille. Scouts learned about guide dog etiquette and how to serve as a sighted guide for someone with limited or no vision.

Laurel at piano as Audrey stands beside her with Audrey's guide Jesse

Later in November, we were honored to partner with one of our: gold sponsors,” the Association for the Blind of South Carolina at a special Holiday Drop-In hosted by the Association.

Dixie Land's display table

As Laurel Jean provided dinner music for all who attended this event, Taylor and Audrey manned Dixie Land’s exhibit table.

Laurel sings with ten-year-old Taengkwa as ten-year-old Jessie plays the piano.

Dixie Land GDU continues to encourage and support blind youth in the Lowcountry and beyond. In December, Laurel Jean took our “Paws 2 Educate” Initiative on the road in her traveling music ministry. At St. Lucas United Church of Christ in Fort Branch, Indiana, she presented a special Christmas concert to help that area’s Parents and Teachers of Blind Children raise funds on their “Road to Dallas” (the summer, 2012 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind).

Laurel reads Scripture at Mt. Zion General Baptist Church

At another of her Indiana church engagements, Mt. Zion General Baptist Church in Wadesville, Laurel also introduced Dixie Land and our “Paws 2 Educate” Initiative to God’s kids of all ages. Laurel Jean arrived back in South Carolina just in time for the Christmas Party of the Association for the Blind, where she was our featured guest entertainer. Dixie Land believes that in the promotion and sponsorship of blind entrepreneurs, we can help to create a positive presence of the blindness community among the community at large. Watch your inbox for more posts like this one, and thanks again for your ongoing prayers and support!

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.