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In Search Of...A 'best friend' helps local blind woman see

An update on La Crosse resident Jeannie Nylander

LA CROSSE, Wis.  -- La Crosse resident Jeannie Nylander is getting a whole new lease on life and it's thanks in part to two things. First, after years or battling excruciating pain and deteriating vision loss from a disease called autoimmune retinopathy, "I've had my eyes taken out and I have prostetics in. And I'm in no more pain!"

Pain free, but now totally blind and left facing the world literally in the dark. And that's where Jeannie's second blessing comes into play. Meet Linus. "I think Linus is my angel with paws."

Jeannie and Linus are inseperable these days and it's a partnership that started late last year when Jeannie contacted a Madison based non-profit organization called Occupaws. The mission of Occupaws is to place fully trained guide dogs with people who have visual impairments. But what makes 'this' organization so unique, "We actually go to the clients home. They actually get to go and practice in their home area and things that would occur in her home area with Jeannie, she lives on French Island and there's no sidewalks."


Jeannie had a trial meeting with Linus and trainer Deann Miller last fall. "Linus and Jeannie are a very good match together. Their personalities are similar, their walking pace is similar. "

"He was just such a sweetheart and so loving. A good hugger. He's just my right pace."  Once the match is made, the training begins. But it's not Linus that's being trained. He's already the pro. The training is for Jeannie. She needs to learn the commands, the cues. "Linus is indicating to Jeannie about the environment, what's going on, if there's an obstacle or turn."

"He's just such a blessing." "She wants to go out there. She wants to remain a part of the community and Linus is helping her do that."

"Linus is not just a dog. He's my buddy. We're going to go every place together."

At the end of Jeannie's training, a graduation. To mark the end of one chapter - and the beginning of a totally new one. "Only good things ahead and a lot of progress. Now I get to go see the city in a whole new light. In a whole new way."

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