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.

Friday, March 14, 2014

In Memory...

Laurel and Zettie on a snowy day

Pictured here is our Secretary/Treasurer, Laurel Jean Walden, with her beautiful, black Lab mix Zettie on a snowy day in Charleston, SC. Zettie passed away on Wednesday. The following is posted in Zettie's memory by our President, Audrey Gunter.

Zettie Walden



She was a beautiful girl-tall, tantalizingly tall; long and sleek with gorgeous, shiny, silk-like hair; captivating big, brown eyes-one could be consumed by those eyes; soft, unbelievably soft ears and an attitude that quickly told you that you were in the presence of royalty!  She was, after all, the Empress Queen Diva!  She was the boss and she had no problems letting folks know it, either.

She was also a character-goofy and clumsy and just so-so funny; but majestic at the same time.  She'd blunder into a room, tail wagging, knocking things about with every step; look around for just that perfect person; plow through anything in her way; take that regal, long nose of hers and place it just under one's hand.  Then she'd throw her head up in the air, taking the hand with her!  That was her way of introducing herself.  She was just as genteel as she was rambunctious, though. Zettie could have very easily passed as a guide dog but Laurel made sure that she was never mistaken as a service dog.  I was always amazed how well Zettie interacted with the many, many service dogs she came into contact with over the years.

As big as a small horse and stubborn as a large mule, she was such a loud, demanding yet ever-so faithful soul-with the wisdom of an aged sage.  She took on other's responsibilities like a mother hen.  She appointed herself as attendant to others and made sure those in her charge knew she was the boss!

Loyal, faithful, loving, exuberant Zettie!  What a girl she was!  She crossed over Rainbow Bridge Wednesday with her mom, Laurel by her side.  Zettie is running through the Heavens right now-free from pain and hurt. 

Zettie and I had this thing we did with me shaking my fist at her saying, "I'm gonna give you one of these right across the kisser!" 

She'd always prance on those two big front feet and give me that playful growl of hers that would make anyone smile.

God continues to bless us in many ways.  I know He blessed me by knowing sweet Zettie and I believe the entire world is a bit better for having her among us. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


The following press release may be of interest to our visitors...

Beginning in February 2014, a new model for guide dog training will provide individualized training approaches to meet specific needs of students


January 2014 – Smithtown, NYThe Guide Dog Foundation is excited to announce it will now offer its accredited guide dog training in a 12-day program. Beginning in February 2014, this new curriculum will offer a 2:1 student/instructor ratio and will focus on incorporating a blend of customized training formats to meet the specific lifestyles and needs of students while maximizing the training time in class for students and their dogs as they prepare for real-world situations.


"We are implementing this new approach in order to meet the needs of our blind and visually impaired applicants while also being respectful of our students' time to commit to training with a guide dog," says Wells B. Jones, CEO of the Guide Dog Foundation. "This is an exciting change for the program. Our students will graduate with their dog in a shorter amount of time while gaining the real-world training targeted specifically to their lifestyles."


The hallmark of the Guide Dog Foundation is its meticulous matching program to ensure that each applicant is teamed with the guide dog that best suits that person's personality, lifestyle, and physical needs. This refined training program will now offer greater individualized training in concentrated sessions. While the student will spend fewer days on campus, the amount of practical training will increase. This represents a change from the Foundation's previous four-week residential training.


In addition, because of the lower student-to-trainer ratio, students and instructors will be able to cover their specific needs pertaining to their home environments by focusing on various training walks (urban, country and night walks); mass transit situations, including train platforms, subway, and bus travel; traffic area training and other types of conditions.


Students in class will continue to participate in lectures on grooming and care for their dog, obedience practice, accessibility awareness and the Americans with Disabilities Act, and guide dog etiquette for non-guide dog users.


The Foundation will still offer home training if it is determined that a student's needs will be best met by this type of intensive training; this decision is made on a case-by-case basis.  

For questions about the guide dog training program visit www.GuideDog.org or contact the Guide Dog Foundation Consumer Services Office at 866-282-8047.


About the Guide Dog Foundation


For over six decades, the Guide Dog Foundation has supported the independence, enhanced mobility, and companionship a guide dog brings to its handler. Students come to its Smithtown, N.Y., campus from all over the United States and Canada for the quality of Foundation dogs and its innovative training techniques.  


There is never a cost to consumers for their guide or service dogs. The Guide Dog Foundation relies on contributions from generous individuals, corporations, service clubs, and foundations to support its programs. It does not receive government funding.


In 2009, the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind became the first assistance dog school in the United States to be certified by the International Guide Dog Federation and Assistance Dogs International. It was recertified by both regulatory bodies in 2013.


To learn more or to donate, visit www.GuideDog.org.


Paws 2 Meet Laurel Jean!

From the President...

Laurel at Grand piano

Keys are Key

Whether sitting at her desk, typing on her computer keyboard or at her Casio, popping out tunes on her digital pianos, or exercising her vocal chords, always hitting just that right note, Laurel Jean Walden seems to constantly be “on key.”

An accomplished recording artist, composer/writer, vocalist, pianist, and motivational speaker, Laurel Jean has dedicated her life to presenting God’s message with her music. Laurel began her professional career at 14; produced her first album while still a teenager and has 12 CD’s to her credit.

The epitome of “independence”, Laurel frequently travels all across the country accompanied only by “White Lightning”, her long, white cane. When asked why she chooses not to use a dog guide Laurel smiles and replies, “Well, I love dogs-all dogs. If I’m traveling on a job and my cane breaks, I can always get a new one. If I had a guide dog, though, and something happened to it while traveling...well, it would just break my heart!” She is very active, enjoys scheduling her own travel itinerary, as well as hiking/walking, tandem biking and bowling.

Laurel talking to Zettie

Laurel quickly adds that she has a dog, Zettie-a beautiful black lab mix. "She’s not a service dog. She's my little girl and I love her with a love that is bigger than life!"

In addition to her music, ministry, and Chaplaincy for God’s Blind Kids of all ages, Laurel is a Certified Braille Proofreader by the U.S. Library of Congress. She also serves as Secretary/Treasurer of Dixie Land Guide Dog Users and, in fact, created and maintains this website.

Laurel dedicates much of her time towards helping others. One of the many ways she serves God is by providing talking Bibles to those who cannot read because of blindness or severe learning disabilities. She truly does shine His Light on those who would live in perpetual darkness.

Laurel with Grace Church choir

Two of Laurel’s favorite things to do, though,would be to sing and play the piano for the choir at her home church, Grace United Methodist Church, Charleston, SC. She even used her computer to print out one of her very own songs for the choir to sing with her! She never ceases to amaze us with her unbridled adventurous nature. Last year she displayed her dancing skills with the Interpretive Dance group and she’s already planning to try her hand at acting in this year’s Easter production. She has even been known to assist withmeal preparation for church fellowship events!

If that isn’t enough, Laurel continues to serve as a vital member of our Dixie Land Guide Team when we’re out doing a “Paws 2 Educate” program and is already working hard in the planning of next year’s Top Dog-Charleston, 2015!


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.