SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (KTVU) - Making friends at summer camp may be great, but making a friend at one special summer camp could be life changing.
Melanie Velasquez, a 14-year-old from Hayward, is one of a dozen teenagers from around the country— all of them blind—who for the first time are learning what it's like to use a guide dog.
"It was really amazing. I felt confident. Calm at the same time. I just didn't want to let go," said Melanie.
The week-long camp is run by Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael. For the teenagers, relying on a guide dog takes a little getting used to. They're all used to walking with canes.
One teenager came from Dallas, Texas to be at camp GDB.
"With a cane you can walk, but you hit things. A guide dog avoids things and guides you through obstacles," said Zack Thibodeux.
The camp director, Jane Flower, has used guide dogs for more than 20 years.
"Having a guide dog is a 24-hour, seven day a week commitment. It's a huge decision to make. We like to get kids interested to the lifestyle early on so they can start preparing," said flower.
It takes 12 weeks to train and transform a regular dog into a guide dog. It takes two weeks for a person to learn how to work with a guide dog.
The students say they had to remember the commands.
The dogs they also said bring an added fringe benefit, unconditional love.
"It would be really cool to have a partner. Just going through life lie with two people instead of just alone," said Zack.
"When it's a guide dog it's different. You are more open you're less isolated. You're more confident about yourself and the dog," said Melanie.