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Abigail and Oakley

Meet Graduate Abigail

Abigail and black Lab Oakley sit for team portraitGraduate Team: Abigail and Oakley
About the Team: Oakley, a male black lab, is Abigail’s 3rd guide dog
Location: Louisville, Kentucky
Training: January 2023 On-Campus

Abigail is a vision rehabilitation therapist, teaching Braille and life skills at her state center for 12 years. Oakley joins Abigail, her husband, and an orange tabby cat, Kenzie. Abby’s mom is her biggest champion, aside from her husband, and was the first person to meet Oakley. Her maternal grandparents, with whom she is close,  look forward to meeting him too. Abby loves walking, finding new TV shows to watch, and is an avid reader, with huge reading goals – this year’s challenge is 90 books. She’s played the violin since age five, and although never professionally, she’s been playing at her church since 2013. Abby became a Chicago Cubs fan in 2016, the year they won their first World Series in 108 years. She and her husband, a huge baseball fan, went to Wrigley Field on their honeymoon for four games, and she’s hoping to take Oakley to some minor league games in Kentucky. As someone who loves traveling, Abby would love to take Oakley to Catalina Island or Alaska this summer. She spends her free time going out with friends and enjoys hanging out with coworkers who also have guide dogs.

How would you describe your guide dog? “He’s a cuddle bug. I’m not talking about cuddling next to your feet, I’m talking about next to your ribcage. He loves me a lot and he’s never far from me. I call him Officer Oakley because he’ll alert me if there’s a train or he hears someone outside. He loves his toys and bones, especially the rubber flying saucer my friend got him. He thinks that’s the best, so you can tell when he’s carrying it around with a wag or a snort, that he’s a happy boy. He’ll lay on his back when he’s under my desk and look for belly rubs. My coworkers have fallen in love with him because he sees them and rolls over. I’m told he has very sweet eyes.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes?  “When I was in high school, my violin teacher had a guide dog and I was like, ‘how, when, where, and why did you get this dog?’ She told me about Guiding Eyes, and I asked her what the dog does for her since I knew only a little bit about guide dogs. I went to Guiding Eyes two months after I graduated high school. My mom was not a big fan of having a dog in the house, but eventually she fell in love with Alice, my first guide. What keeps me coming back is the family atmosphere, and I had the same two instructors for my first two guides. I love how Guiding Eyes is this big family and they’ve given me some great dogs. They’ve never misled me and they’ve always really cared enough to match me with a dog that I need in my life at that time. They’ve always treated me with respect and kindness, and I’ve had a great time with their dogs. I love what they stand for.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “After my previous guide Bancroft passed away, I was just riding paratransit. I was very sedentary. I would go home and sit because while going out in the world with a cane is fine, it wasn’t enough for me. It’s funny, I’m not a big believer in the afterlife, but the day before I got my acceptance email for my next guide dog, my previous dog visited me in a dream and I got to pet him. It was strange how that happened. I went back to Guiding Eyes because I love their caliber of dogs and it’s a first-class school.”

Were there any training highlights? “I love my instructors; Michelle and Shannon were wonderful. They were the best and get a billion star rating from me. I love the small, four-person class atmosphere, and I love my classmates. It’s easier to connect when there are only four students and what’s cool is that we were all retrains, so we’ve all had guide dogs before. Three of us keep up on Facebook. Overall, my experience was good and my instructors gave us some really big chocolate bars – those were good too. I love Guiding Eyes, I really do, and I tell everyone to go there.”

Meet Guide Dog Oakley

DOB:  10/7/2020
Litter ID: 2OO20
Color/Breed:  Black/Labrador Retriever
Gender: Male
Brood: Ode
Stud: Lloyd
Littermates: Olive, Otis, Opie, Ortega, Olana
Region:  Northern Virginia – North
Regional Puppy Instructor: Janet Bartolotta
Puppy Raiser:  John & Anne Zipperian, Shannon Sidwell
Facebook: Nova North Puppy Raisers

From the Puppy Raiser…

Oakley has always been a loving and enthusiastic boy who wanted to do the right thing. He was always up for an adventure and happily accompanied us just about everywhere we went, including the beach, ferry rides, plenty of garden centers, and multiple cities. Everyone who met Oakley could tell just how special he was with his sweet face and joyful personality. Oakley always loved to be where the people were, and was happy to befriend any person, dog, or cat he met.  ~ Shannon Sidwell, Puppy Raiser

Oh dear. Oakley was the best puppy that we every had in our care. He was loved by everyone that we met. That included meetings in grocery stores, the subway, the mall, and airports, too. I still miss him and will always. Best wishes to you, Oakley!   ~ John Zipperian, Puppy Raiser

Photos of the Team…