Massachusetts native Lillian Johnson has been a valued member of the Fidelco Family for over 30 years: as a client since 1988 and member of Fidelco’s Board of Directors beginning in 2008. She has had five Fidelco guide dogs, calling each of them one of her “daughters.” The most recent member of her Fidelco canine family is “Evrest”— raised by the Fureys—who joined Lillian just a few months ago. Lillian describes their meeting as “love at first sight” and Evrest as a “wonderful guide dog” whose tail is forever wagging and who loves to cuddle when not working.
Lillian attended the Perkins School for the Blind from kindergarten through high school and retained usable vision until age 18. She learned white cane mobility in her 40’s but says she really never felt comfortable using a cane and often managed to get around without one. It wasn’t until she was working as an administrative assistant at the Massachusetts Department of Revenue that her boss, a dog lover, suggested she get a guide dog.
Lillian learned about Fidelco’s services from friends and did her own extensive research. She was drawn to Fidelco because she loves German Shepherd Dogs and was attracted to Fidelco’s In-Community Placement training model—where she would receive training in her home community rather than at a residential training facility. Lillian’s boss offered to write a letter of recommendation to Fidelco on her behalf, and she was placed with her first Fidelco guide dog in 1988.
Lillian’s work career also included positions at an area hospital, a local HMO, and a women’s health organization—always with her Fidelco guide dog by her side. Beginning in 2003, she devoted many years volunteering as a consultant for Eye Opener for the Sighted, an organization in Arlington, Massachusetts. In that role, Lillian educated sighted people about blindness through presentations and educational sessions. Clients included schools and businesses in Greater Boston. She also provided training to Tufts University third- and fourth-year medical students to help ensure positive outcomes when interacting with visually impaired individuals and others with disabilities.
Over the years, Lillian has enjoyed cross-country skiing, hiking, and canoeing. She was a member of Ski for Light, an international nonprofit organization founded in Norway with chapters across the U.S. Ski for Light teaches cross-country skiing to individuals who are blind, visually impaired, and mobility impaired using sighted cross-country skiers as instructors and guides. Lillian attended many of the organization’s events and was a leader in the New England Regional Chapter.
Lillian’s love for the outdoors continues with daily walks with Evrest. Every time she meets a new person on her walks—which happens frequently—Lillian has an opportunity to educate them about people who are blind and the benefits of guide dog partnership. For Lillian, these include greater independence, an enhanced feeling of safety, increased socialization opportunities, and the extraordinary bond she shares with her guide dogs.
“I am very grateful for what life has given me, and I couldn’t picture my life without a Fidelco guide dog,” says Lillian. She adds that Fidelco has been like another family to her, and she has enjoyed her work on the Board of Directors. During her decades-long relationship with Fidelco, Lillian has appreciated opportunities to interact with Fidelco’s devoted staff and Puppy Raisers. She hopes to continue to share her story with others so they may learn about Fidelco’s extraordinary guide dog.
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