I'm pictured here with attendees of Top Dog-Charleston, 2019 during Opening Ceremonies. Since the founding of Top Dog Workshops in 2006, it has been my honored to serve as a musician and emcee for Top Dog events in South Carolina, Florida and Georgia. I also accepted many of the event planning and guest registration responsibilities for the 2010, 2015 and 2019 events held here in Charleston, SC.
Top Dog-Charleston, 2019--a weekend packed with educational presentations, fabulous food, fellowship and fantastic "furries"--took place January 18-20. It was a tremendous success! We hosted over 150 human guests, over 90 guide dogs (plus some future and retired guides) and eleven of the twelve nationally-accredited guide dog schools.
Our Top Dog tributes to God and country have always been very special to me. This year, everyone attending our Opening Ceremonies was given a personal-sized American flag to hold with pride as we recited the Pledge of Allegiance together.
Throughout the weekend, I was blessed to work with lots of wonderful folks, including two of my colleagues in ministry. Presbyterian "Pastor Deb" Trevino (pictured above) flew in from Delaware with her husband Dave and her guide dog, Suzie. United Methodist Pastor Phil Glick (pictured below) and his wife, Connie came from my home state of Illinois, by way of Orlando Florida where they have been volunteering with Wycliffe Associates. Thanks to these two ministers and their spouses, all of our guests were given the opportunity to experience God's loving Light firsthand! Our opening invocation, "The Blessing of the Guides" and our ecumenical Sunday morning church service were truly unforgettable!
The effects of Top Dog-Charleston are still being felt nationwide within the blindness community. As a direct result of this event, at least three residents of our Tricounty area (and many more from across the country) have received life-enriching and empowering services offered exclusively by some of our Top Dog associates from Ohio, Michigan and Florida. At least 3 schools got brand new applicants for guide dogs. One of our local residents has even attended the new Orientation & Mobility course offered by Pilot Dogs in Ohio and is absolutely elated that he can now independently navigate his subdivision using his long, white cane. On a more personal note, my BFF Audrey's guide dog Jessie was able to see his puppy raisers (foster parents) who traveled all the way from Texas to see him for the first time in over nine years!
As a proud, lifelong cane user who happens to love dogs, I want to take this opportunity to thank the national organization Guide Dog Users, Inc., and especially the state affiliates of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, for making me feel so welcome and appreciated at Top Dog events specifically and among the community of guide dog users in general. Once you've become part of the Top Dog family, you're sure to have lots of friends, "fur-ever!"
Stay tuned for more posts like this one. Until next time, God bless you and keep His Song in your heart!
© 2019 by Laurel Jean Walden