a black Labrador retriever from the Oregon campus of Guide Dogs for
the Blind, an organization that trains the dogs and helps the canines
and their visually impaired owners to work together as teams.
Sterling ensures Lockett her independence, she said.
"We share something special," she said. "He means so much to me.
They give you your freedom back. I can go on the bus. I can travel. I
can go swimming. I can take him to the gym."
Lockett was born with congenital cataracts in both her eyes. She
had surgery to have her left eye removed, which was replaced with a
glass eye, she said. She has limited vision through her right eye,
depending on the light, she said.
"A lot of people say, 'There are so many surgeries now, you can
probably see," she said. "But this is a part of who I am, and I am
fine with it. I think you learn so much."
She retired her previous guide dog, Kyla, because of old age. Kyla
is 11 and now lives with Lockett's mother.
Lockett loves animals and wants to use her experience to help
train animals learn basic obedience skills.
Lockett went to Oregon in April for a three-week training period,
when both the blind person and dog receive training on how to
navigate safely on stairways, elevators, crowded sidewalks and
through traffic, said Tamara Barak, spokeswoman for Guide Dogs for
The dogs are taught to practice intelligent disobedience," Barak
said. If on a busy street, an owner orders a dog to cross the street,
and a car is approaching, the dog will refuse, Barak said.
Before a dog and owner train together, the dog undergoes an
extensive training and selection period.
The dogs are bred by the organization and raised by family, who
give them love and teach them good manners, Barak said.
"The dogs are then matched with the owner's lifestyle, personality
and pace at which they walk," Barak said.
The training, which costs approximately $65,000, is always free of
cost, Barak said. Training for Lockett and Sterling was sponsored by
Kay Ballard, a woman Lockett has never met but is grateful to.
"That was really sweet of her," she said.
Lockett always wanted a black Labrador retriever.
"I wanted a calm dog while on-leash, and a playful dog when
off-harness," she said. "I knew he was a perfect match from the first
day. He came over and put his head on my lap."