‘It’s nice to have a guiding light’: Journey to independence for woman who lost sight includes Labrador

Marin Baumer was in the passenger seat of her boyfriend’s car when something flew through the windshield and hit her in the face. She permanently lost her eyesight.

Baumer, who graduated from the University of Miami in 2019, had to learn a new way of life. It required the use of a cane and learning how to read and write braille.

Baumer was quick to apply to get a guide dog.

“I applied right after the accident. I was ready, and that’s why I really started learning everything as soon as I could. I learned how to walk with a cane and cross intersections, and how to read and write in braille, because I knew pushing myself as hard as I could could get me one step closer to him, and it did,” Baumer said.

The process took a few years. Guiding Eyes For the Blind, a New York-based non-profit organization that focuses on connecting working animals to humans with disabilities, specifically trained Kegan, her 80-pound Labrador, to navigate situations and obstacles.

“He loves cuddles. I mean, if I am sitting on a couch or a bed, expect him to be on top of me,” Baumer said. “He knows no bounds and I don’t want any privacy. I need him as close to me as possible. He loves kisses.”

Kegan allowed Baumer to have more independence.

“They open up so many doors that I never knew were possible having no sight. I did not know that someone without eyesight could run without the need for another person there. I didn’t know that I could use public transportation so easily,” Baumer said.

This is because guide dogs like Kegan train for months. Baumer also needs to train.

“I think the biggest hurdle in learning how to be a guide dog handler is actually learning how to put your trust into an animal 100%, which is hard,” Baumer said.

Having a large dog next to her, she said, makes her feel safer when she doesn’t know her surroundings.

”You don’t feel alone and I think a common fear we all have is the dark, so being in the dark constantly,” Baumer said. “It’s nice to have a guiding light next to you that’s looking out for you.”

About the Author:

Jacey Birch anchors Local 10 News Mornings each weekday from 4:30 a.m. to 7 a.m. She is also proud to be the animal advocate for Local 10's investigative team.