Graduate Profile: John Esak & Dixie

Just before Christmas, we saw our 215th class of students graduate with their new guide dogs. Here is just one of their stories, as told by Leslie Rowe.

John Esak’s early vision struggles never stopped him from leading a renaissance life.

A former long-haired hippie who once cashed in Coke cans to buy his ticket to Woodstock, he earned a master’s degree in music composition and enjoyed an inventive career as a recording engineer and recording equipment designer.

John lost his left eye at age 10. So when a glaucoma operation failed on his good eye about ten years ago, the resulting vision loss was devastating. But John pressed on, teaching himself to use a cane and inventing his own methods of navigation. For years he hesitated about getting a guide dog, fearing that the dog would be more of an impediment than a help. But after just a few weeks with an unbelievably smart black Lab named Dixie, John couldn’t believe how far Dixie could take him.

John looks forward to being able to walk with Dixie to restaurants and clubs on his own, as he enjoys playing music at local open mic nights.

“I’ll be independent!” he said. “That’s very important to me.”

“Southeastern is incredible — I’m over-awed,” he added. “I’ll be attached to the school from now on. Everything has so overreached my expectations! With Dixie, I’m reinventing myself!”


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