June Home Training
Graduate Team: Alexis and Kathleen (Luna)
About the Team: Kathleen, a female black Lab, is Lexie’s 1st Guide Dog
Hometown: East Greenwich, Rhode Island
Guide Dog Mobility Instructor: Kathy Rooney
Lexie is a semi-retired registered nurse practicing as a certified diabetes educator. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from Simmons College in Boston. She has an array of state and national credentials having specialized in diabetes education. She maintains a private practice and consults for the pharmaceutical industry. Lexie has been married to her husband, Bill, for forty-three years. They reside in Rhode Island and are the proud parents of three adult children and grandparents of four. Lexie’s hobbies and interests include gardening, her cats and dogs, and writing. She is currently writing a series of children’s books about various animal adventures which she hopes to publish in the future. As a complication of her 55 year plus history of type 1 diabetes, Lexie developed diabetic retinopathy. She was left totally blind in one eye and has limited residual vision in the other eye. Lexie’s peripheral vision, her depth perception and color vision have also been negatively impacted in the sighted eye. After sustaining several falls and “near misses” Lexie heeded the advice of her ophthalmologist and initiated the process of obtaining a guide dog. This past spring, she was placed with her first guide dog, Kathleen, who the family has lovingly nicknamed Luna!
How would you describe your guide dog? “I feel like Luna has been by my side for the last 100 years! Luna and I bonded from the get-go. She follows me everywhere. She loves sitting with me in the sun. If I am gardening, she is laying down watching the planting and weeding with great interest. If I am working on my writing in the office, she is asleep next to my desk in her bed. Whatever is happening, if I say to her, “harness up’’, she is ready and willing to get to work.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “A few years ago, as the covid-19 pandemic was just beginning, I was receiving orientation and mobility training from INSIGHT, a RI organization working to improve the lives of those dealing with blindness and low vision. One of Insight’s employees, who has received two guide dogs from Guiding Eyes for The Blind, led an online seminar that I attended about “Life with A Guide Dog.” After completing this online seminar and listening to the very positive comments about Guiding Eyes from the instructor I decided to apply. I had also heard about Guiding Eyes previously and after researching the school I was pleased with their methodology, philosophy, and approach.”
How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “I have become more relaxed and feel much safer. I no longer have to be on high alert for each and every step I take. I love nature and being outside. It had been years since I could hike independently in neighborhood parks. My instructor opened up this opportunity for me to hike again.”
Were there any training highlights? “I preferred home training because I care for my 88 year old mother, and this type of training worked out very well for me. I was stunned by Luna’s training and level of intelligence. My GDMI, Kathy Rooney, took me to several parks and I learned to avoid unexpected obstacles with Luna. Now Luna and I even walk on bridle paths. One particular incident comes to mind. During my training there was a construction project going on in my neighborhood. The crew saw that I was with a guide dog and indicated Luna and I should proceed along the side of the street. We had to navigate around an elevated sewer grate and a sidewalk area more narrow than normal because of the construction. Luna got me through safely without a hitch.”
Kathleen is the third dog we raised for GEB and my favorite. She was challenging at first, but smart and loving, and I knew her energy could be channeled into work. Our relationship soon blossomed, she was housebroken quickly and mastered new commands almost instantly. She loved to hike and swim and to be silly with friends, but when her vest went on, she knew she had a job to do and was focused and attentive. She had her IFT right before the COVID shut down, so three days after our painful goodbye, I got the call asking if I could take her back temporarily. I felt I had won the lottery with the bonus time we shared. I miss her every day, but am so proud to know she is going to change someone (else’s) life- because she has already changed mine. She has taught me more than I could ever teach her about work ethic, positive attitude and unconditional love.
Photos of the team…