Amherst Veterinary Hospital Welcomes Gilmour’s Guides to our Blog.

Gilmour’s Guides are stories from long-time Amherst client and Dunbar Resident, Bruce Gilmour.  Bruce recounts his experience with the five different guide dogs he has partnered with after losing his sight at the age of 20. Given the importance of his furry partners to his independence and wellbeing, we are humbled to be a part of his journey and very proud to be his “Go To” vet.

As Bruce recounts:

“I met Grant Cumberbirch in 1985 when I graduated with my first golden retriever guide dog, Kappa.  Guide Dogs for the Blind (San Rafael, California) not only provided a terrific match in a guide dog and our training, but also assisted us in making a reliable transition when returning to our homes.  One such on-going topic was the monitoring and care of the health of our guide dogs.  We were coming home to familiar surroundings and sounds, but it was all and I mean all going to be completely new to our precious new four pawed companions upon de-planing from the aircraft!   A fellow graduate I knew from UBC, promoted one particular clinic to stay on top of our guide’s health.  The good health of our new guides being the foundation or anchor for the sustaining of reliable guiding from our dogs.  Drs. Cumberbirch, White and Mears, originally down by the Chevron near 41st and Dunbar, quickly became veterinarian names I was promoting to other guide dog teams!  Since then we’ve shared over 30 years of laughter, empathy, sensitivity, stories, friendships in common, and yes, some enduring sessions loaded with pure barn yard droppings!”

In the Beginning…

Completely losing my eyesight in a car crash at the age of 20, life took on new proportions. Living in Merritt, I was employed in the logging industry coupled with a very physically active life through summers on Nicola Lake, downhill skiing at Tod Mt., assisting with the daylong rides for cattle round up on my Mum’s family’s cattle ranch, and learning to fly an airplane with dreams of a career in the commercial airline industry.   On just another Friday night with the loss of my eye sight in the car crash, Life as I knew it, presented me with self-doubt about what and how a blind person found meaningful participation and contribution in daily life having just lost a very precious health attribute.

Completing medical rehabilitation, a comprehensive program in acquiring adjustment to vision loss skills (Braille, white cane, cooking, and so on), I took what I was learning about my new life and successfully completed a Bachelor’s Degree at UBC in Geography. As I learned to manage my blindness in the pursuit of personal dreams and aspirations, I grew to be quite familiar with how success was acquired through developing partnerships to participate and complete the things I was introduced to and liked to do in daily life. Learning to accept and manage my blindness, I started to become familiar with a new normal. Then my new normal took on a huge stride, a gigantic leap forward in terms of experiencing a new sense of freedom and independence.

A partner came into my life with a flowing waterfall tail, floppy ears, whiskers, and four paws – my first of five golden retriever guide dogs. As this partnership grew and we learned to pattern our routes to and from bus stops, retail outlets, around the campus and later to and from work, anxiety about getting about safely was minimized and freedom and independence were elevated. I can honestly say my smiles were really coming from inside, from my heart!  And talk about getting things done efficiently! For example, going to the credit union, all of my guide dogs knew it was the teller I wanted to access. Entering the premise, naturally, at least in the mind of my dogs, the most efficient thing for my guide dog to think and do was to get around this line of people and take Daddy to the teller! A new normal, perhaps not. A new efficiency, maybe yes, at least in the minds of my clever guide dogs!  After all, our guide dogs work on the premise of reward, affirmation and praise, in my case from, the top dog, for completing a task and doing it well, “Marley, good boy!”


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