Finding Purpose as a GDB Club Leader
Kate Richardson is one of many club leaders for Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB), volunteering to oversee puppy raisers and puppies in training at her Boise, Idaho puppy club. Kate began volunteering with her family for GDB 16 years ago as a junior in high school, and has raised 17 puppies since, 12 of whom eventually became guide dogs and one of which became a breeder for the program.
Soon after beginning volunteering, Kate was diagnosed with Chiari malformation that stopped her skull from growing before her brain did, putting pressure on her spinal cord. She underwent surgery and developed several complications such as chronic migraines/headaches and fibromyalgia, and has had several other diagnoses such as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome that results in hypermobile joints. The combination of these afflictions causes her to experience frequent dizziness and chronic pain.
As Kate’s disabilities became more apparent they affected her life significantly, but volunteering for GDB became motivation to stay positive: “I could count on GDB every single day. There was a meeting that I could go to every week and there were people who cared about my contribution, so I attribute my ability to get through all my struggles to raising guide dogs. I had to get up every morning and take care of a puppy that needed my attention and that allowed me to at least present some of my best self.” Her drive and commitment as a puppy raiser were successful when her first puppy in training, Yamaha, graduated as a guide dog. “Seeing the connection between Yamaha and Bob, his partner, was the most special thing I have experienced to that point in my life and I was speechless. It was the moment I knew that all of the effort, despite my physical state, was worth it and I actually had a purpose.”
Kate became more involved in her club as she raised more puppies and began assisting her leader in various club responsibilities. When the opportunity to become the leader for her club arose around six years later, she accepted the opportunity because GDB was such an integral part of her teenage years. She wanted to give back to the community by teaching others about puppy raising.
“I think that Guide Dogs for the Blind is so special to me because it is a community of people who are entirely selfless that will go above and beyond for the good of a dog and individuals who are visually impaired/blind. Especially as a leader, I get to interact with others that I can count on, and I also love these amazing dogs!” says Kate. During the pandemic, Kate continues to adapt as a club leader with the assistance of her mobility service dog, Survey, who provides mobility and stability tasks such as counter-balance, forward momentum pull, and dropped item retrieval. Learn more about Kate’s journey with Survey and her other pets on her Instagram @the.girl.with.the.dog!