Our People: Herrera and Hugo
Until recently, Louis Herrera, a customer programs specialist, who is visually impaired had to rely on a rigid mobility cane to get around. Now thanks to SoCalGas and a nonprofit, his mode of navigation has been upgraded to a friendly four-legged alternative named Hugo.
A Faithful Companion
Hugo is a 4-year-old black Labrador Guide Dog from Guide Dogs for the Blind School that has been trained to be Herrera's eyes where ever they go. During working hours, Hugo lays quietly and patiently underneath Herrera's desk until he is needed or allowed to come out to greet visitors.
Hugo loves people and the attention, said Herrera. "Now he shakes hands with everyone; but before, he would only shake hands with the ladies," he said.
Herrera said he loves people too and is grateful to work for a company that cares about its employees and provides them with the tools and resources they need to achieve their full potential.
"Thanks to technology, I can read and respond to emails, draft documents, and contribute to SoCalGas' success," said Herrera.
Going Above And Beyond
SoCalGas demonstrates its commitment to diversity and inclusion, said Herrera. "The company even gave Hugo his own I.D. badge!" he said.
Ted Humphrey, senior marketing advisor and Herrera's supervisor, said he is proud to have Louis and Hugo on the team. "They are great ambassadors in the community about our customer assistance programs and SoCalGas'
commitment to its customers," he said.
Another one of Herrera's important duties is to reach out and help underserved communities and persons with disabilities, disabled veterans and senior citizens, said Humphrey.
They are a dynamic duo who reach out to community-based organizations that serve groups from various demographic and cultural backgrounds and introduce them to the California Alternate Rates For Energy (CARE) Program and the Energy Savings Assistance Program, said Humphrey. "These programs can help their clients save money, make their homes more energy efficient and improve their quality of life," he said.
"As a colleague, Louis continues to help our team understand things in new ways. We're always learning from one another," said Humphrey.
Life Before Hugo
Herrera describes life before Hugo as a bit more challenging. He had to rely much more on his other senses to get to work, shop for groceries, attend appointments, or visit friends.
Sometimes sounds like a subtle groan or a body shifting position would help Herrera avoid a homeless person in his path and an awkward confrontation. "But not always," he said. "Most people get angry when you accidentally poke them with a stick or nearly trip over them," he said. Herrera remembers having to dust himself off before meetings because he bumped into an object along his path. "Bushes are a lot quieter than people," he said.
Herrera calls Hugo a wonderful companion, his new best friend, and credits him for helping him move with greater ease around town, train stations, airports and through crowds. "Too many people don't pay attention where they are going."
Returning The Favor
"He keeps me safe. He's like my guardian angel," said Herrera. On one occasion, Hugo placed himself between him and the dangerous edge of a commuter train platform.
"He just stiffened up and wouldn't get out of my way, even when I pushed him and gave him firm commands," said Herrera. "He wouldn't budge. I never realized how strong he was," he said. "I could have suffered some serious injuries or worse."
Herrera said he appreciates Hugo and does everything he can to return the favor by keeping him clean, happy, and healthy.
"I told my wife, 'You know, this dog's got it made. He has me clean up after him, feed him, and groom him,'" he said smiling and looking down as if searching for Hugo. "But it's all worth it to me, because of all that he does."