Paralympian Danelle Umstead Clears Up A Big Misconception People Have About Guide Dogs

"I believe dogs like having a purpose ..."

For the past decade, September has been National Guide Dog Month. This year, to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of that occasion, Natural Balance teamed up with alpine skier Danelle Umstead, a three-time Paralympic bronze medalist, to show a special group of guide dogs just how much they are appreciated.

Umstead — who was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a disorder that will eventually cause complete blindness, at the age of 13 — got her first guide dog, Bettylynn, from Guide Dogs for the Blind in 2008. In 2013, Bettylynn retired and, though she still resides with Umstead, saw guide dog duties given to Aziza.

"Bettylynn loves retirement. A lot of good sleeping, a lot of good eating," Umstead told A Plus at the event. "I have my dog with me always [and] I love that because I travel the world for sport [and] I'm always on the go, but Aziza is my consistent grounding part of my life and we do it together."

Umstead — who recently joined Dancing With the Stars cast for season 27 as the show's first-ever visually impaired contestant — had the perfect answer when we asked her what she thought the biggest misconception people have about guide dogs.

"People feel sorry for the guide dogs, like, "Oh, that poor dog has to work all day," where they don't realize my guide dog would rather be with me all day long getting treats, hanging out, [and] helping me out. I believe dogs like having a purpose just like we all love having a purpose and they love their job."

Watch the video above to see footage from the Natural Balance-sponsored guide dog retirement party and from our interview with Umstead.


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