Guide dogs help serve as their owners' eyes, but a video shows it's much more than that.

'I'm putting my life in the paws of a dog.'

It was a day just like any other.

Liz Oleska was getting her son, Logan, ready for school and was on her way to bring him to the bus stop when out of nowhere, a massive headache hit. At a loss, Liz decided to take a nap and rest it off.

When she woke up, however, all she saw was darkness.


Terrified, Liz went to the hospital for help. But the doctors told her there was nothing more they could do. Her eyesight had already been deteriorating for three months due to diabetic retinopathy.

"That's when it hit me," she recalled. "I'm blind."

Everyday tasks like cooking and crossing the street were suddenly difficult and scary to Liz.

"What am I gonna do? How am I gonna live? How am I gonna survive? How am I gonna do this alone as a single mom raising my son?" she asked.

"I thought my life was over ... and then I got Bryce."

Watch the powerful video to be immersed in Liz and Bryce's story:

Liz's new guide dog came into her life like a four-legged ray of hope.

Bryce helped Liz grow her sense of confidence, independence, and pride. And even when times got tough, Bryce stayed by her side no matter what.

"It took me getting Bryce to realize that all I need is to trust myself, that I can make anything happen," Liz said. "Now I stop and think because Bryce has taught me to appreciate things differently. And there's so much that makes me happy — so much that I didn't even realize was out there."

In honor of Blindness Awareness Month, Pedigree is sharing Liz and Bryce's story to highlight how valuable these furry companions can be.

What's made these canine companions so incredible? How did they even learn to be so helpful?

Here are five fascinating things to know about guide dogs:

1. The guide dog training process is, of course, highly specialized.

Image via Pedigree/YouTube.

Each dog is assigned to a trainer who will work with them for at least five months. During that time, the dogs have to go through different phases designed to get them ready for the real world.

First, the trainers reinforce the basics the dogs learned as puppies. Next, the trainers up the ante by introducing obstacles and distractions to make sure the dogs stay on point. After that, the dogs are asked to perform all the tasks they learned without any help. (This step requires a lot of repetition.) Lastly, the dogs are integrated into normal settings and are able to put their training into action.

After that, they can direct their owner to wherever they need to go, avoid any dangerous obstacles, and even distinguish between commands to tell whether it'll put their owner in harm's way. (It's called intelligent disobedience, and it might just be their coolest skill.)

When all is said and done, about 70% of dogs make the cut and can become guide dogs. But don't worry about the others; training centers make sure to find a home or other job for them.

2. You can actually help out in the coolest way.

Image via smerikal/Flickr.

Guide dogs are trained from the moment they're born. But there's a little gap where you can help out and become a puppy raiser.

It'd be your job to raise a puppy! From the time they're 8 weeks old to around 18 months, these puppies need to learn basic obedience skills and manners. You'd also be tasked with making sure these puppies are sociable and exposing them to as many different situations as possible. When they're finally puppy teens, ready for the next step, they head back to the training center.

3. There's an art to selecting the right guide dog for an individual.

Not every guide dog is going to be the perfect match for every person with blindness or visual impairment. There are a lot of crucial factors that need to be considered before they can be paired up properly — age, height, walking speed, environment, personality, breed, etc.

Coordinators have to make sure there's a seamless relationship between guide dog and owner because they operate as a team every single day.

4. There are a few rules on guide dog etiquette.

Image via Pedigree/YouTube.

Many guide dogs are absolutely adorable. But remember that they're also doing a job when you see them out with their owner. So make sure not to distract them with shouting, honking, or feeding. More importantly, never grab the harness or leash from the owner because it will cause disorientation.

If the dog is absolutely irresistible, make sure you ask the owner first if you can have a moment with their guide dog to say hello and pet them.

5. Guide dogs aren't for everyone, but they provide an important service for their handlers.

Image via Pedigree/YouTube.

In addition to making daily tasks easier, guide dogs can help their owners gain more confidence as they move about the world together.

They help serve as their owners' eyes. But more importantly, they're giving them a whole lot of heart.

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

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Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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