Participating in “Careers and Canine Connections”

Amy stands on a bridge overlooking a small river. In the background are trees with their leaves starting to change color.

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The Journey to Camp

I recently attended Careers and Canine Connections to learn about career exploration while also learning about dog guides and all that goes into having a dog guide by our side!

Getting on an airplane and flying to Oregon to attend the first-ever Careers and Canine Connections was a mix of emotions, feelings, and thoughts! I was a bit nervous, not knowing what to expect. Thankfully, my friend was also attending and on the same flight. So, we boarded the aircraft along with our suitcases. This was one of the most terrifying yet thrilling experiences I have ever participated in in my eighteen years.

I had no idea what the week would have in store for me, nor all the knowledge I would gain from APH ConnectCenter and Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Camp Reflections

Careers and Canine Connections is a camp in Oregon, close to the Guide Dogs for the Blind’s campus. There were nine participants, and we all were blind or had low vision. We ranged in age from 18 to our early 20s. Our week was full of enlightening lectures, conversations, adorable dogs, delicious food, hiking, and budding friendships.

One of the things that stood out to me the most when I arrived was how most of the staff were blind or had low vision. Often this is not true when attending programs for youth who are blind or low vision. It was my first time attending a camp where the staff could relate to me and my situation and share their experiences and advice. It was encouraging to see adults who had jobs they loved and fulfilling lifestyles who also happened to be blind.

As a teen growing up with a visual impairment, we are often told that there is a way for us to succeed and have a promising future. Seeing proof and talking with others with various careers and lives really set it into perspective.

Career Exploration

During the week, we had several interactive lecture-style conversations on the aspects of having a career. We discussed how to look and act professionally and dived into the world of career exploration.

The APH ConnectCenter provided many resources to help us explore the wide variety of jobs available. We learned about the difference between a career and a job. A career is a broader, more official job, such as a doctor or plumber, while a job is something that one might do in passing, such as an ice cream scooper. A job, however, could turn into a career, such as an ice cream scooper becoming an ice cream shop owner.

We also discussed some important factors for interviewing, such as how to dress, how to answer the most commonly asked questions, and how to disclose or not disclose a disability. We also learned about types of accommodations in the workplace and the difference between reasonable and unreasonable accommodations.

Other topics we learned about were employment laws and discrimination in the workplace. It was a topic that wasn’t very familiar to me, and I was glad we got to dive into our rights as future employees.

Dog Guide Considerations

Learning about careers was not the only part of camp. We also gained much information on what life would be like with a dog guide. We had copious lectures on all the responsibilities of having a dog guide. Duties include feeding, watering, grooming, and relieving the dog.

My fellow campers and I were then given the chance to perform those tasks by caring for a live dog overnight. Caring for my dog was one of the most enjoyable and nerve-wracking experiences ever. I was so worried that I would make a mistake or do something wrong, but hanging out with a dog and feeling his soft ears was so much fun. Ultimately, I came out of the experience feeling triumphant and better understanding what taking care of a dog would be like.

Being guided by a dog vs. walking a dog

Then, at last, came the day I had been waiting for! I was to walk with a real dog guide. But first, we had to do a Juno walk with a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor holding the front of a dog’s harness while we held the harness handle. The Juno walk is to see our walking pace and much more. After this, we went for a walk with a real dog guide!

It was my first experience walking with a dog guide, and I could not have imagined what it would be like. Not even the Juno walk prepared me for what it would feel like to walk with a dog. The yellow lab spurred into action when I issued the “forward” command. She expertly guided me through a winding path, ensuring I didn’t run into anything and following whatever command I gave her. I marveled at how precise she was in following my directions. I could only imagine what it might be like as a team working together for years.

With a dog guide as my eyes, we could walk at a brisk speed that I could rarely accomplish with my cane. It was such an unexplainable feeling that solidified that getting a dog guide of my own was in the future for me.


Overall, I recommend this camp to anyone considering or wanting to learn more about guide dogs and how they work and people who want to learn more about career exploration. I am so thankful that I decided to take a chance and attend Careers and Canine Connections. I walked away from it with much more knowledge than I did going in. I also made some great friends and formed new relationships that I wouldn’t have made if I hadn’t gone. Not to mention, I also had some of the most delicious desserts I have ever tasted!