July 1st, 2021
4 min read

Staying Active with the Help of Jayla

Leslye kneeling next to Jayla, her guide dog, on a bridge

The companionship of a guide dog is a special feeling for which so many guide dog users are grateful. Leslye Ostrom can’t believe how much easier life became when she was paired with Jayla, a black female guide dog.

Leslye, who lives in Sunriver, Oregon, was fully visual and wearing glasses and contacts until her early 50’s. Before losing most of her vision, Leslye led an active lifestyle, enjoying horseback riding, biking, and walking. That came to a screeching halt when her vision deteriorated over a few years after inheriting a rare genetic disease called Autosomal Dominant Neovascular Inflammatory Vitreoretinopathy (ADNIV), and retired from her job as a nurse manager.

Previously living in Portland, Leslye used a cane for 10 years but disliked how limiting it was. “I would try to take long walks with a cane, but after a mile my arm felt like it was ready to fall off, plus it would get caught in cracks and it felt really cumbersome to me. When you can see you walk in your subconscious, but it was frustrating having to think about every step using a cane,” says Leslye. She decided to get a guide dog after a couple of friends in a low-vision support group who had guide dogs described their positive experiences with GDB. When out and about, “I was amazed at how fast they were going and I couldn’t keep up with my cane, and they kept telling me to ‘not wait too long!’ to get a guide dog.”

Leslye and Jayla were matched in October of 2020, and Leslye immediately felt the difference. “Walking with Jayla for the first time at the GDB campus was the best! It was weird trusting a dog at first, but I was suddenly able to walk quickly, but I was able to let her do the guiding so I could look around and see things like the trees and sky and enjoy the last little bit of vision I have.”

Back home in Sunriver, OR, Leslye became more active with Jayla by her side. “I like to get out and walk every day, and if I want to go across the city to get myself a cup of coffee I can do that. Jayla is very adaptable to nature and the city. Everything in my life, like going out for lunch or shopping became much easier.” Jayla also made Leslye more confident outdoors. “I have so much trust in her, so I’m not as worried as I was before about stepping off a curb or running into somebody.” Although losing vision was scary and isolating for Leslye because the visual cues she relied on in communication were lost, Jayla helps Leslye bridge the social gap with people.

“My husband calls Jayla my shadow,” Leslye remarks. “To have an organization that is just a phone call away and covers all costs and changes people’s lives, and to have a companion in my life is wonderful. GDB is such a fantastic organization.” Leslye was especially amazed by how hard GDB works to find a perfect match. “I still have my old show horse and occasionally ride him in an arena. When my GDB trainer found out, she took Jayla to her barn to make sure Jayla was ok around horses.”

Leslye plans to stay active with Jayla and travel often. It’s uplifting to see their strong friendship, and life-changing stories of guide dog users like Leslye’s are the reason why so many people contribute to the GDB community.

Want to write articles like this?

Consider joining the team!