WHAT WOULD YOU DO ... if you were sitting in school one morning and suddenly found you couldn't see? When it happens to Matt VanFossan during his third year of college, it's the start of a life he hasn't planned on and definitely doesn't want. A few months later, paired with a guide dog, he's still in a state of denial. But Matt's new companion, named Gilly, isn't one for self-pity - or modesty. He describes himself as one of the handsomest dogs at guide dog school. A keen observer of the human condition, especially his human's condition, Gilly provides a running commentary on Matt's progress. And as Gilly and Matt learn to work together, the two gradually forge a relationship that transcends the ordinary bonds between dog and man. From dog training school then back to college, from home and on to Brazil, Gilly relates their story with humor and insight. Through challenging adventures, new friendships, and ultimately, lasting love, Gilly provides Matt with guidance and companionship for six years - a lifetime that will last forever. Not a dog lover? You will be once you've finished this tale and looked at the world through Gilly's eyes. FROM THE BOOK: Matt and I made our first solo foray onto campus. I had idea where we were going, and Matt, it turned out, had only a vague one. The two of us made an extremely awkward team. As we started off down the block, he began counting his steps in a low voice. Smart boy, I thought. I wouldn't be able to find our house on the very first return trip. He'd be able to cue me on the way back. Unfortunately, walking and counting at the same time didn't seem to be one of his strengths. I distinctly heard him say the number 'sixty' twice. Then, I heard him curse. Finally, we reached the intersection. 'Two hundred and fourteen, ' he anunced. Give or take a few dozen, I thought.
Matthew VanFossan's book, Through Gilly's Eyes: Memoirs of a Guide Dog, started with a beer and a conversation with a friend. Wouldn't it be great having Gilly tell our story? he said. He'd be making fun of me all the time. Gilly, VanFossan's first guide dog, became the narrator of this story as VanFossan experienced life with the blindness he once thought would be devastating. Gilly helped him get to where he is now, and the book is written as a tribute to him, to honor their six years together. After graduating from Oberlin College and living for a while in Brazil, Matt earned a master's in spiritual psychology from the University of Santa Monica in 2012. He now lives with his wife, Rita, and his current guide dog, Achilles, in Santa Monica, California, where he is a counselor and singer/songwriter. Gilly is still very present in my life. I think he would approve of the book, although he might say it wasn't quite like that. [Taken from an article in The McKnight Journal, April 11, 2013, by Dona Dreeland.] For more information about Matt and Gilly, go to www.guidingforlife.com.