Senior Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Shares The Gift Of A Guide Dog


When John Albarran lost his sight to glaucoma, he quickly figured out how to move forward in his life. By the age of 17, before he had graduated from high school, Albarran was a Guide Dogs of America graduate. He is currently partnered with his fourth dog from the school, a female yellow Labrador Retriever named Julep.

Albarran is a Senior Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (QRP) with the California State Department of Rehabilitation. He and Julep work in the Capitola office of the San Jose District, where Albarran assists clients with disabilities in moving from an “I can’t work” mindset to identifying their transferable skills and getting them back to work.

“Working for the state is the best thing that has ever happened to me,” he says. “Independence, equality, that’s what the department is all about. I’ve known that as a consumer and now I can share my point of view with clients.”

This April, Albarran and Julep were introduced and trained together to work as a team in Albarran’s home, work, and community environment. While a cane helps a blind person with mobility, Albarran says a guide dog provides so much more than that. “A cane can’t tell you there’s a hole in the road,” he says. “A guide dog is your eyes, an extension of yourself, and a companion who is always going to be there for you.”

Since 1948, Guide Dogs of America has provided professionally trained guide dogs to blind and visually impaired men and women across the U.S. and Canada. The school does not charge guide dog recipients or their families any fees for services, which include a guide dog and instruction in his or her use by professionally licensed trainers; travel to and from the school’s Sylmar, California campus; room and board at the campus for the 28-day instruction period; a specially designed harness; vet care at the school’s facilities, and follow-up care for the life of the team.

Guide Dogs of America is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and is able to provide this gift, the total cost of which is $42,000, thanks to generous donations from individuals, corporations, foundations, chapters, and clubs. Guide Dogs of America does not receive any funding from the federal, state, or local government. State employees may choose to support Guide Dogs of America by donating through Our Promise: California State Employees Giving at Work (formerly CSECC). Guide Dogs of America President Dale Hartford calls these donations crucial to the school’s work. “With every dollar they donate, they make it possible for us to continue to help blind and visually impaired men and women pursue their goals with increased mobility and independence.”

Albarran encourages his fellow state employees to consider donating to Guide Dogs of America. Supporting the school, he says, is “a great way to give back to society in terms of people who have a disability.”
Guide Dogs of America provides “the gift of independence” says Albarran, a gift that cannot be underestimated and one that benefits him greatly in his professional life. “You don’t have to depend on anyone when you’re a guide dog user,” he says. “And in the professional world, that helps a lot.”
To learn more about Guide Dogs of America visit