December 05, 2005.
Windsor Tribune - Windsor,CO,USA.
Margie Blehm’s desire to walk outside her home disappeared. Her outlook on life began to deteriorate, something her vision had been doing since she was born.
“I was afraid to go out of the yard. I was almost ready to just sit here and spend the rest of my life indoors,” Blehm said.
Blehm, 52, who lives on a 215-acre farm five miles north of Windsor, was declared legally
blind in 1978 when she was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative retinal disease.
“I had friends who told me they were really worried about me because they thought I was slowly dying,” Blehm said. “I didn’t have the confidence, and all my friends were starting to worry about me. A lot of prayers went up.”
Blehm and her husband, Ron, were walking out of church one day when she almost broke her ankle falling off the curb. Blehm said it was time to act quickly.
Enter Cupid, a 61-pound, 22-inch high, 2-year-old black female Labrador retriever who has brought new life to Blehm. The two completed a month of intensive training at Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, Calif., last month.
Blehm admitted that it was hard to totally put her trust in Cupid, but five days into the training she felt totally comfortable with her new eyes.
Cupid is Blehm’s first guide dog, and the two learned to negotiate stairways, elevators, overhead obstacles, crowded sidewalks and busy streets.
“It’s astounding what Cupid can do,” said Ron Blehm, 55, a sixth-generation farmer who graduated from Windsor High School in 1969. “You can stand back and watch how they maneuver down the streets, stopping at the curbs and there’s no more stumbling.”
Blehm applied a year ago to Guide Dogs for the Blind, a nonprofit, charitable organization dedicated to providing skilled guide dogs to visually impaired people. Cupid was raised by a family in Aurora for 15 months, and then trained for eight months at Guide Dogs for the Blind. There is no charge to the visually impaired person for the organization’s services, which includes the dog, the in-residence training, transportation to and from the school, dog-handling equipment and follow-up support.
“She truly is my eyes. This has changed my life, and my life will never be the same,” Blehm said. “This dog can do anything but verbally talk to me or read traffic lights.”
Blehm and her husband want to get the message out that the loss of eyesight doesn’t have to be a life filled with doom.
“These dogs are available, and it is worth the month that I was there,” Blehm said.
Blehm’s son, Doug, and her daughter, Mary, were both diagnosed with the same eye disease. Doug ended up committing suicide at the age of 26 in 2000. Mary, 23, still lives in Windsor, but her parents said she’s struggling with the disease.
“There is hope. There is empowerment, and it’s not the end of the story,” Ron Blehm said. “It’s a new beginning. When their eyesight is gone, it’s not a hopeless situa
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