Mind, Body & Spirit

Local woman boosts guide dog awareness

Shari Gootter with her retired guide dog, Harper

Tucsonan Shari Gootter recently sent an e-mail to friends and colleagues promoting Harper Appreciation Day — a celebration of her retired guide dog on his 14th birthday on March 8.

Gootter, whose sight is limited due to uveitis and secondary glaucoma, works as a clinician at Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse, teaches yoga and works part-time with the Jewish Community Relations Council’s Jewish-Latino Teen Coalition. She told the AJP her motive for Harper Appreciation Day was to raise awareness about Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a guide dog training organization (www.guidingeyes. org).

A volunteer with the Guiding Eyes Graduate Council and a board member of the Southern Arizona Association for the Visually Impaired, the President’s Council for Disabilities at the University of Arizona and the Steven M. Gootter Foundation (which raises funds for research about sudden cardiac death), Gootter says she could not do all the things she is passionate about without her guide dogs — first Harper and now Gemma.

The e-mail, written by Hannah Sorkow, a Gootter family friend, explains that while the relationship between any guide dog and its human companion goes way beyond that of “man’s best friend,” Harper is exceptional.

“It is obvious to all who meet him that there is something distinctive about Harper. His demeanor is as thoughtful as he is. He seems to possess the insight of a wise old man,” says Sorkow.

Harper retired from service in 2007, yet “he continues to comfort those who are in need of healing and affection,” says Sorkow.

Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup issued a certificate recognizing Harper’s years of service.

Says Gootter, “He has clearly touched many lives here and continues to do so.”

For more information, contact Gootter at sharigootter@comcast.net or 577-2189.