Beacon Stories

Sep 6, 2019

How Davida Regained Her Speed with Guide Dog Chubb

In honor of National Guide Dog Month this September, Davida is sharing her experience with the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind and how she found a perfect match in her new guide dog, Chubb.

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National Guide Dog Month has a special meaning for Davida Luehrs.

Davida Luehrs and her guide dog, Chubb.

Davida was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa in the late 1980s. Since then, she has become very involved in the blindness community, as a member of the Reston Lions Club and the Northern Virginia District Sight Chair, and as the president of the Foundation Fighting Blindness’s Northern Virginia Chapter. Davida is also very active, with two of her favorite hobbies being walking outdoors and taking dance lessons. But in the last few years, she noticed that her vision was deteriorating and shifting further.

“I noticed even walking with my white cane, that I was inadvertently walking off the path and onto the grass, instead of the sidewalk on my usual routes,” says Davida. “It’s kind of like the edges were unexpectedly going away and I noticed I was less confident, so I wanted to stay ahead of the curve.”

So, in December 2018, Davida decided to head close to her hometown to Smithtown, New York for a tour of the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind (GDFB) facility and immediately went home to put her paperwork for her own guide dog. A few months later, Davida was approved and notified she was matched with a dog suited for her needs.

Once matched, Davida attended GDFB’s two-week training orientation program to meet her new guide dog. This in-residence program was a class of about 8 other individuals being matched, with a 2:1 student/trainer ratio. After the first week, the class would leave their campus for a personalized training and go to parks and other custom day-to-day locations to get acclimated to what a normal daily routine would be like with your new guide dog.

By the end of the two weeks, Davida was the proud owner of her first guide dog, Chubb. Chubb is an almost 2-year-old 75 lb. black Labrador who was raised by a student at the University of Georgia. His name, Chubb, came from GDFB sponsors that decided on naming him after Nick Chubb, who was a University of Georgia football running back and now plays for the Cleveland Browns.

Getting Chubb was a slam dunk decision. He’s given me a new sense of confidence and has helped me regain my speed.

Davida Luehrs

Coming home with Chubb was an adjustment to daily life for Davida, but she and her family, including their family dog Scruffy, all had no trouble with this positive change.

“I learned quickly that when you have a white cane, people tend to shy away from you,” says Davida. “But when you have a guide dog it tends to draw people in. I was surprised by how many people asked to pet Chubb when we were out. I always explain I need to take the harness off first since he is working with it on. Even one of my doctors spent most of my appointment on the floor rubbing Chubb once he was off his harness,” Davida recalls.

A few weeks after coming home with Chubb, Davida traveled to Alaska for a vacation. Davida and Chubb experienced their first flight, train ride, cruise ship and whale watching adventure together. This once in a life time trip reaffirmed Davida’s decision to get a guide dog, giving her security and reaffirming her independence. 

“Getting Chubb was a slam dunk decision,” says Davida. “He’s given me a new sense of confidence and has helped me regain my speed. I tell Chubb to “hop up” and he takes off with no fear.”

If you’re considering getting a guide dog and want to learn more, please feel free to reach out to Davida Luehrs at northernva@fightingblindness.org