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.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Paws 2 Educate

Day Campers visit with Jessie off-harness

Together and individually, Dixie Land Guide Dog Users work to promote a positive image of the blindness community within the community at large as part of our “Paws 2 Educate” Initiative. Our recent presentations have included Charleston’s ASPCA Bark Camp, where our President Audrey is shown giving campers a little off-harness time with her guide, Jessie. This allows young people, especially, the opportunity to see the importance of the harness. Campers also learn why one must never pet or speak to a guide dog in harness.

Laurel brailling names of campers

Here, our Secretary/Treasurer Laurel Jean is shown brailing the names of day campers as our sighted friend Kevan-Ann Spangler, brings the photographer in focus. Kudos to our sighted volunteers!

Laurel teaches sighted guide to day campers

Laurel teaches day campers the proper way to serve as sighted guides. Campers learn to always ask if help is needed and never grab a blind person by the arm.

Laurel and Audrey speak with Delta Gamma Sorority

Recently, Audrey and Laurel were also blessed to address the Delta Gamma Sorority of the College of Charleston, whose philanthropic focus serves the blindness community locally and beyond.

Special thanks to the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, whose support helps keep our “Paws 2 Educate” Initiative going and growing!

Meet Our Officers

Dixie Land officers, Tweety, Brianna, Audrey and Laurel

Meet our newly-elected officers, Tweetie ford (First vice President), Brianna Murray (Second Vice President), Audrey Gunter (President) and Laurel Jean Walden (Secretary/Treasurer).

Tweetie with her guide Yvonne, is a native Charlestonian, a graduate of North Charleston High School, the University of South Carolina and the Medical University of South Carolina. In addition to her work in the medical field, Tweetie served actively as a church musician until health issues forced her to retire. She lost her sight later in life due to complications brought on by a stroke, and was matched with her first guide dog, Heidi in 2004. Heidi tragically passed away suddenly and Tweetie was matched with her second guide Yvonne in 2010. Tweetie and Horace, her husband of 42 years, served actively within the blindness community here in Charleston until Horace passed away in 2012. A devout Christian, Tweetie continues to serve her God and her community.

Brianna has been a friend of Dixie Land GDU, long before she was matched with her guide Lacy in 2011. We especially appreciate her expertise when it comes to learning new computer and cell phone technology. As of this writing, Brianna is the only blind student to be accepted to the Charleston School of the Arts, where she graduated with honors as a violin major. She is currently a junior at Winthrop in Rock Hill, SC, pursuing a major in psychology and a minor in English.

Also a native of Charleston, Audrey Gunter, pictured here with her current guide Jessie, was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa and declared legally blind at age nineteen. She was told to get herself a cup and some pencils because she had nothing else to look forward to. Audrey received her ABA with honors in 1975. She retired in 2001 as the Director of the MUSC Department of Transportation. A pillar of the blindness community, Audrey is a Past President of both the Lowcountry Chapter and the State American Council of the Blind in South Carolina. She has served on the Board of Directors of the South Carolina Disability Resources Center, the Board of Directors of Guide Dog Users, Inc. and the Board Graduate Committee of Southeastern Guide Dog School (where she was matched with her first guide Zack and her current guide Jessie). Her book "Zack's Tales, Travels of a Guide Dog" can be purchased here. She founded the Southeast Regional Top Dog Workshop in 2006. In 2011, she was commissioned as a Stephen Minister at Grace United Methodist Church in Charleston, where she currently serves as an active member.

Although Laurel Jean is an avid cane user and takes pride in honing her skills with the long, white cane, she wholeheartedly supports those who choose to use a guide dog as their means to personal mobility and independence. In addition to taking care of the administrative duties for our organization, Laurel brings to the team her knowledge of Braille, technology, independent travel, and her life experience of twenty-five years in professional music ministry. Laurel has been blind since birth, and has a special enthusiasm for reaching out to blind youth. Her latest CD, “Celebrate With Laurel Jean,” featres a special tribute to guide dogs and their handlers, “The Blessing of Your Love,” which was debuted earlier this year at Top Dog, Savannah. You can hear samples and purchase the CD, here.

We invite you to check back regularly to learn more about the Dixie Land Guide Team, our membership and activities. Thanks for your ongoing prayers and support!


Meet Dixie Lander, Ann Humphries!

Dixie Lander Ann Humphries and guide Brego, hike trails at Lake Jocassee

Meet Dixie Lander, Ann Humphries and her guide, Brego! Ann learned about us thru Top Dog Charleston, 2010, where she met with representatives of various guide dog schools. She applied to Southeastern Guide Dogs and she and Brego were matched.

Ann and Brego hike Dupont Forest, NC waterfall trail with
Richland County Recreation

Ann lives in Columbia, SC with Kirk, her husband of 34 years. Since Ann and Brego were matched, they stay very busy and active. Thru Richland County, she has helped organize hiking trips which foster active lifestyle. She says, "Brego is very much a part of the fun!" In addition, they have appeared before the Richland County Council in favor of approving library funding, and are part of their "Vote for Our Library Team."

Ann and Brego visit Sky Top Orchard in Flat Rock, NC. Brego
thinks the little green apples are tennis balls.

Ann serves on the advisory board of the South Carolina Library for the Blind, and continues to be an ambassador for Southeastern, Brego's alma mater.

The Dixie Land Guide Team is always proud to feature our members as they make a difference in their communities, and the community at large, as part of our "Paws 2 Educate" and "Keeping Families Focused" initiatives.

Check back often to learn more about these initiatives, and how you can be a part of the team!


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Second Sight Medical Products Announces New Technology

Below is an article that may be of interest to some of our viewers. The posting of this article does not indicate an endorsement by Dixie Land Guide Dog Users. Please refer to the link within this article for more information.

FDA Approval of Argus II

Thank you for your interest in the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis made by Second Sight Medical Products.

Our device received FDA approval for commercial sale in the United States February 14, 2013. We have been commercially available in Europe for over one year and have approximately 22 commercial patients in Italy, Germany and Saudi Arabia. During our clinical trials we implanted an addition 32 subjects who still have our device as well.

The device has been approved for candidates who have the following conditions:
• Adults age 25 or older with Retinitis Pigmentosa (this is the only diagnosis currently approved for our device). We will be working with the FDA on the approval of additional diagnosis pertaining to retinal degeneration in the future.
• Bare light or No light perception in both eyes (If the patient has no residual light perception, then evidence of intact inner layer retina function must be confirmed).
• Previous history of use form vision.
• Aphakic or pseudophakic (if the patient is phakic prior to the implant, the natural lens will be removed during the implant procedure).
• Patients who are willing and able to receive the recommended post-implant clinical follow-up, device fitting and visual rehabilitation.

The device will be available in limited locations in 2013.
• The following cities will have centers opening in July 2013 (should be ready to accept patients for screening sometime in July-August 2013). San Francisco-CA, Los Angeles-CA, Dallas-TX, Atlanta-GA, Miami-FL, Nashville-TN, Raleigh-NC, Baltimore-MD, Philadelphia-PA, Cleveland-OH, Ann Arbor, MI and Chicago-IL.

The Surgery

• An implant is attached via a silicone band to the eyeball, a small incision is made to the eye and an electrode array is tacked to the retina. The incision is closed and there is no indication outside the body of an implant.
• The surgery is done either via a one night hospital stay or as an outpatient procedure depending on the surgeon’s considerations, this will be discussed during the initial testing with the hospital. General Anesthesia (you will not be awake) is used for the surgery.
• As with any surgical procedure or implantable device there are risks, please discuss with your implanting physician directly.

How it works

• Our website illustrates how the device delivers sight via our implant. Please visit our site, here.


• We are currently working with CMS to obtain a procedure code for our device that will allow reimbursement for Medicare. We have preliminary codes for both in and outpatient procedures and are awaiting further instructions and clarification from Medicare.

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.