A perfect duet
Two years ago, Yana Ramos got a birthday present that changed her life.
On the day she turned 25, Ramos and her guide dog Greta graduated from their class at Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) in Boring. From that moment on, Greta and Ramos have officially been bonded for life.
Today, Ramos is a graduate student at Marylhurst University, where she studies Music Therapy with Greta by her side. Ramos also performs with the Marylhurst choir at least three times a year, and Greta has been present at every concert. On Saturday, when Ramos and the choir presented their holiday concert, Greta was in attendance, dressed for the occasion in a bow tie.
"She knows how to work a room," Ramos says. "She's much more extroverted than me. She's a very sweet dog, and very intuitive. She can really sense the mood of people around her."
Greta has changed Ramos' life in too many ways for her to count, she says. "She's given me a lot of confidence in myself, and confidence to do all of the things that I am now doing,"
Ramos says. "I moved from Hawaii to Oregon last year, pretty much thanks to having Greta."
Ramos, who has been blind her whole life, hadn't considered getting a guide dog until she got to know Vickie Kennedy, who had a guide dog. "Meeting her was kind of the catalyst. Their relationship really spoke to my heart. I decided it was time," she says. "It was right around the time I was deciding to come (to Marylhurst) for school."
Ramos and Greta completed their training class in Boring, then went back to Hawaii, where they worked at Target for about eight months. They then moved to Oregon and began attending school at Marylhurst together.
Ramos and Greta are in their second year in the Music Therapy program, which Ramos says is a perfect fit. "Greta is the perfect dog to be with a music therapy student," she says. "You can just feel everyone's mood improve when she's around."
Music has bonded Greta and Ramos since the beginning. At their GDB graduation, Ramos performed the song "For Good" from the Broadway musical "Wicked," with Greta at her side. She later found out that the young woman who raised Greta as a puppy would use this song to calm her down when she would get restless.
"I can't listen to that song anymore without getting teary," she says, adding that the relationship she shares with Greta runs deep. "I like to say that we're the same person, but she just has a tail."
Greta has a distinct personality, which Ramos still continues to uncover, two years into their relationship. "To this day, she will do things that really surprise me," Ramos says. "The way that she picks up on what I need and what I ask her to do, it just astounds me."
Ramos has been performing for a long time, so she is used to being on stage. However, she says, "I think I enjoy it more now because I get to show her off. I think it's cool for people to see her on stage with me. I get to kind of be an ambassador for Guide Dogs for the Blind."
Ramos is incredibly grateful to the GDB community. She remains very close with the other members of her class and their dogs, as well as the family that raised Greta as a puppy.
"The family we have created through GDB is priceless. It's comforting knowing that we have each other," Ramos says. "Having Greta has introduced me to this whole community of GDB. I'm blown away by the connections that we were able to make."
Guide Dogs for the Blind trains guide dogs to serve individuals who are blind or have low vision throughout North America. The organization receives no government funding, providing its services free of charge. For more information, go to www.guidedogs.com.