Dixie Sanderson & "Jayla"Dixie Sanderson

Prescribed millions of times per year, antibiotics are supposed to help. For Dixie Sanderson, an adverse reaction to the intended cure crushed her optic nerve. Dixie’s nighttime dreams turned into daytime darkness. She woke up unable to see.

Wife. Mother of two girls. Small business owner. Girl Scout leader. School bus driver. Swim teacher. Dixie was a very busy provider for her family and talented giver to her community. Overnight, she became dependent upon everyone around her. People just like her. People just like you. At first, there were glimmers of hope. As the optic nerve died, Dixie could see dim flickers of light. Three complex surgeries attempted to reverse the damage before Dixie was declared permanently blind.

A strong woman who was comfortable in driver’s seat in every facet of her life was now sitting in the unfamiliar passenger’s seat – literally. With her husband, Doug, shuttling Dixie between doctors’ appointments during six months, she had time to consider the options. The accounting work from her clients was piling up and she couldn’t see her computer. Her two daughters needed a fully engaged mother. Her husband was missing a lot of work to be her driver. Dixie the driver, Dixie the giver, couldn’t give up. People depended on her. “By the time the doctors confirmed my blindness was permanent,” Dixie recalls, “I was already moving on.”

Through a blind rehabilitation counselor Dixie learned about guide dogs. “I hated the white cane, too slow” Dixie says with a laugh. “Dogs were always a part of my life. I saw guide dogs as a kid and now I needed one.” A no-brainer, but deep down, Dixie still struggled. All her life, she took care of others. Now she had to swallow her pride, ask for help and become the receiver. Her inner conflict, however, was quickly resolved when she lifted the harness handle and stepped forward with her first Fidelco Guide Dog, “Cobalt.” “It was so freeing to just...get up and go. It gave me the hope that I could get out there, be independent and conquer the world again.” With Cobalt leading the way, Dixie and the Sanderson family discovered their new normal. “That’s when I realized it was okay to be helped by others.”

It’s often said that there are no coincidences in life. Dixie was reminded of this the day her successor guide “Jayla” arrived bearing an ironic symbol and message of hope. “My Fidelco Placement Specialist, Lindsay, placed my fingers on a small plaque,” Dixie recalls, “and explained that the harness had been donated to Fidelco by a Girl Scout troop in Ellington, Connecticut.”

“I immediately got goose bumps. It brought back twelve years of memories when I served as the Girl Scout leader of my daughters’ troops. I began to cry.”

Dixie’s blindness will never take a day off, but her eyes are opened wide to the power of giving and receiving. Through her activities with the Branford Lions Club and her church, Dixie is paying forward the life-changing support she’s received since becoming blind.

“Before I lost my sight, I was the giver. After becoming blind, I had to do some taking and it was hard. Someone once told me, ‘You have to allow others the opportunity to give blessings, like you have.’ My two Fidelco Guide Dogs have been my blessing. And they’ve enabled me to give blessings in return. I could not be more grateful.”