When Toronto Federal Prosecutor Jason Mitschele introduces himself to a jury, he invariably also introduces his guide dog Kailua as his “companion in life.” Next, he warns the jurors that if they hear snoring during the proceedings, it is Kailua and not him.
In a profession not accustomed to seeing blind lawyers in the courtroom, let alone ones accompanied by guide dogs, Mitschele and Kailua stand out. From judges regularly greeting Kailua by name to accused defendants asking to pet her, Mitschele considers Kailua a secret weapon in the courtroom.
Mitschele was partnered with his first guide dog in 1993; Kailua is his fifth. Known as the dream team in Toronto courtrooms, Mitschele and Kailua were paired through Guide Dogs for the Blind International, a registered charity in Canada that helps provide Canadians such as Mitschele who are blind or visually impaired with highly qualified guide dogs free of charge from its sister organization, Guide Dogs for the Blind, headquartered in California.
“As a blind lawyer, I knew my journey would be filled with unique challenges, but I had no idea the attention that having a guide dog by my side every step of the way would attract,” said Mitschele.
He can recount many memorable trials in Toronto with his guide dogs. His first jury trial was a very hotly contested drug case, and his guide dog at the time, Boris, a fetching yellow lab that everyone adored, began to throw up in front of the jury box when the opposing defence lawyer was cross-examining a witness. As a result of Boris’ upset tummy, Mitschele kept him out of the courtroom for a few days until a deputy pulled him aside and said the jurors were concerned about Boris and wondered when he’d return. Later that day, Mitschele brought a healthy Boris back and parked him at the foot of the jury box. The jury convicted.
Mitschele has taken courtroom support one step further with Kailua. He wears dark suits to match her black coat, and he brags that she keeps him looking good as she stealthily whisks him through the halls of the courthouse.
But Mitschele relies on Kailua for much more than style and courtroom support.
“Kailua helps me survive and thrive on the streets and subways of Toronto, “ said Mitschele. “She gets me to my office on time, and takes the stress out of my life because once she goes somewhere for the first time, she knows it.”
It’s not all business with Kailua and Mitschele. When guide dogs are not working and the harness comes off, they play, love and relax like any other dog. Mitschele points out that one of Kailua’s greatest assets is that she thinks of herself as a lap dog and loves to cuddle.
People on the Move
"My name is N I A M H and in March 2016, at the age of 40, I was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. After eight months of grueling treatment including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, my cancer was in remission and my life could begin again. "
Dwayne is a former Toronto Police officer. He met Jason during the prosecution of several drug cases and has joined him on a tandem bike to complete a number of long distance cycling adventures. Dwayne and Jason have also completed several runs, gone rock climbing and skydiving.
Dwayne was immediately impressed with Jason's zest for life and his "never say no" attitude.
Dwayne will be Jason’s guide for this adventure and is proud founding member of Team Limitless.
Maria is a tenured guide runner helping those that are visually impaired run with comfort and a steady pace. Over a decade of supporting and encouraging the visually impaired from Philadelphia to Toronto, she expresses her experience to be "nothing short of life changing". As a founding member of Team Limitless, Maria's goal is to further elevate her guide running journey with our team by creating even more positive impact for the hundreds of thousands of visually impaired Canadians.
Shawn learned at a young age that she had a degenerative eye condition that would gradually result in blindness. Frustrated by the belief that there were no longer any expectations for her to succeed, she was determined to prove to her family and to the world that she could make something of herself...competing at the Paralympics, Founding Blind Beginnings, a Masters degree in Vocational Rehabilitation Counselling, as well as being a registered clinical counselor, a wife, and a mom.
Carmen is Shawn Marsolais’ guide and her friend and neighbour. Carmen has been guiding Shawn in
road running since the beginning of 2019. She has a Masters of Science degree and works in public
health in chronic disease prevention and health promotion. Outside of work, Carmen enjoys
weightlifting, trail running, hiking, and camping. She recently began competing in Olympic weightlifting.
Lori is a retired federal public servant who is legally blind with less than one percent of full sight. She is an active advocate and volunteer to the blind community across Canada over the past three decades with endless motivation to pay it forward.
Laura is a Reporter for Accessible Media Inc. Laura has been legally blind since birth. She's a passionate advocate for people with disabilities. Over the past few years Laura has taken on many challenges including Climbing Mount Garibaldi, Rappelling down a 30 story office building, and travelling to New York City on her own to meet her role model blind adventurer Erik Weihenmayer and attend the No Barriers Summit. Mount Kilimanjaro is the biggest challenge Laura has taken on yet!