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Meet Irene

As Julia’s guide dog, Irene offers guidance and independence – and so much more!

Get a glimpse into Irene’s workday as she guides Julia through big-city streets and airports, then takes well-deserved naps! Singer/songwriter Raffi accompanies with his endearing version of “Goodnight, Irene” (used by permission).

“When I’m at a speaking engagement, Irene lies next to the podium and nods off – until she hears her name. Then she looks up at me with soulful eyes. At the end of the Q&A segment, I take off Irene’s harness to let audience members pet her. Everyone loves her!

“Irene knows her role. She gets excited as the harness comes off, heading toward the nearest person. Her tail wags as she sits in front of each person and lets them pet her. She plays the room! When I put on her harness, she is happy to go back to work – taking care of me. We are a team.”

– Julia Spencer

Irene Brings Me Peace

Excerpt from Looking Through a Keyhole, by Julia Spencer

We are on vacation in a condo in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, when I awake in the middle of the night from a reaction to a new medication I’ve taken just before bedtime. The reaction starts off slowly and feels just like restless leg syndrome, but then it progresses to tremors. My whole body shakes. I sit and rock, and it reminds me of scenes in a mental hospital where people are unable to sit still. I try to watch television, to no avail. I try to flush out the medication by drinking water. I walk the floors to ease the body shakes. My husband Ralph and my Seeing Eye Guide Dog Irene are asleep in the bedroom with the door closed. I don’t want to wake Ralph because he would be too upset to see me like this. I believe it will wear off; I just have to get through the night. I discard any notion to call my daughter Julie, who lives in the next town, dial 911, or go to the emergency room. Finally it’s three in the morning, and I am exhausted.

I lie on the floor, rolling back and forth, crying and moaning lowly, so that Ralph does not hear me, when I feel a wet nose nuzzling my neck and face and a furry body sitting over me, guarding me. I rub Irene’s fur as a child does to their favorite bedtime stuffed animal.

I hear Ralph say, “What’s the matter?”

“I’m having a reaction to the medication. Ralph, I’m so tired, I can’t go to sleep. I didn’t want to wake you up.”

“Irene woke me up,” he says. “She must have heard you. She came over to my side of the bed and was pushing my arm to wake me up. As I opened my eyes, she ran to the door. I put on the light and put my feet on the floor. She ran back to me and, again, ran to the door. She heard you. She wanted to come out. Do you want to go to the hospital?”

“No. I don’t think they can help me. The drug just needs to wear off. I think the worst is over. If I could only go to sleep.”

As I’m talking, Irene lies down and scoots next to my body. I roll over on my side, wrap my arms around her, close my eyes, and feel the love and peace she brings to me. I feel a pillow being put under my head and a blanket over both of us. A thought gently reminds me that I didn’t have to go through this ordeal alone. I doze off to sleep and wake four hours later with Irene still in my arms. The drug has worn off.

I lie here thinking, I will never be alone. I will always have a Seeing Eye Guide Dog who gives me love, compassion, guidance, and my dignity and independence.

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