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Aliceson and Gait

Meet Graduate Aliceson

Aliceson and yellow guide dog Gait sit close together for their team portraitGraduate Team: Aliceson and Gait
About the Team: Gait, a female yellow lab, is Aliceson’s 1st guide dog
Location: Oneida, Kentucky
Training:  May 2024 On-Campus

Aliceson is a junior at Asbury University in Kentucky who describes herself as being “born with horse fever”. Her passion for riding and training horses inspired her to major in equine studies, and psychology. She is a lifelong horse and dog lover and enjoys the company of a 10-year-old horse named Willow, Callie the calico cat, and Buttons, a 12-year-old Jack Russell Terrier.  This summer, she is interning at a therapeutic horseback riding center, assisting those in need with therapeutic lessons while living on-site. After getting her degree, she plans to pursue clinical counseling and equine-assisted psychotherapy. Her on-campus involvement includes the Asbury Honors Program, Visible and Invisible Disabilities Alliance, and peer-to-peer mentorship, and she’s a spiritual advisor in her dorm hall. Family is very important to Aliceson, who lives with her dad and stepmom when she’s not on campus. She is close with her grandma, who lives right across the street, and her aunt and cousin are like a mom and sister to her. Besides her love of horses, she enjoys spending time in nature, whether it’s walking or hiking. Aliceson is an active participant in her church and Bible study group. Additionally, her dog Buttons served as a therapy dog for K9s for Christ for many years. She also finds pleasure in activities such as reading, writing, poetry, playing the guitar, and socializing with her friends. 

How would you describe your guide dog? “She’s different when she’s on harness and off. When she’s on harness, she’s a perfectionist, sensitive, and aware of me and what I’m doing. She’s a hard worker, gets down to her job, and is so smart. She catches on so easily and she loves to target. She can go to sleep anywhere, so whenever we get somewhere, she’s down and asleep. When we get home and the harness is off, she’s a super fun-loving goofball. She will run and play tug, is super happy and goofy, and will lie on her back with all four feet in the air. She also loves cuddling.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “Transitioning to a guide dog has been my goal for a long time. I’ve always been a dog lover and knew I would feel more comfortable with one. It wasn’t until I spent a year at college that I made sure all my orientation mobility skills were good. My vision started to get worse, and I thought I would benefit from a dog. I was in a place where I knew I was ready to take on the responsibility. One of my good friends I met at Asbury had a German shepherd named Dory from Guiding Eyes. Dory was awesome, so that’s how I first found out about the school. I did a lot of research and applied to three different schools. During the home interview process, Guiding Eyes really stood out and I felt that it was the school God was calling me to. I couldn’t have made a better decision. I can’t imagine going anywhere else.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “How I travel isn’t dependent on how my vision is that day anymore because with Gait, it doesn’t matter. She is consistent every day and knows what she’s doing. I don’t have to work based on my vision because she’s got it. Even in the barns, I don’t walk around like I used to, cautiously trying to see things that might be lying on the floor because she’s got it down. A lot of the time, I don’t even know she’s brought me around something. I have so much more confidence because I learned to put my trust in her and she comes through every time.”

Were there any training highlights? “It was awesome, and everyone was so supportive. I loved being there so much and could’ve stayed longer. The progression was a lot more seamless than I expected. They break it down and they’re thorough, so you feel like you’re ready for the next step when it comes. It’s tailored to the person too, so we did general stuff, and the last week they took us to environments similar to where we’d be working. We went to a farm and did a night route, which to me was pivotal because my vision is a lot worse at night. That’s where I saw that I could trust Gait. Our last morning in class, we did a hike and that was so fun. It was nice to wrap it up and see how far my classmates and I had come during the week.”

Meet Guide Dog Gait

DOB:  3/17/2022
Litter ID: S-2P22
Color/Breed:  Yellow/Labrador
Gender: Female
Brood: Tempest
Stud: Gomer
Littermates: Phoenix, Pongo, Pax, Parsley
Region:  NoVa-North
Regional Puppy Instructor: Katie Meuer
Puppy Raiser:  The Yang Family, Jane Masri
Facebook: Nova North Puppy Raisers

Special Recognition: Gait was special named by the Chang family in memory of Christy Gaitten, whose lifelong nickname was Gait. Christy raised two terrific Guiding Eyes dogs, Quincy and Davis, and would have loved to have been able to continue that for years to come. We are so proud to have Gait as a living legacy to our wife and our mother.

From the Puppy Raiser…

Gait has been a special pup from day one. First of all, she was special named in honor of one of our region’s raisers who passed away in 2022, Christy Gaitten, Who was affectionately referred to by all her friends as “Gait” . I told Christy’s family she was remembered every day, because Gait was SO cute and popular, we were often stopped by people who wished to meet her. I always took the opportunity to explain her special name. As Gait goes forth as a four-legged force for good in the world, I know she will do her best to guide Aliceson with confidence and determination.. Although it was very difficult to bring Gait back to campus last November for training, we know this is what she was meant to do. We will miss her, but we know Christy will be watching over them both in the years ahead. ~ Jane Masri 

Gait has been a pleasure to co-raise. She is a sweet, eager-to-please girl. We enjoyed many outings shopping, traversing around our local college campus, church, outdoor festivals, the movie theater, train rides and visiting farm animals. We have quite the athletic household and she learned to relax and sleep through a number of soccer, basketball and volleyball games. Around the house you could always find her snuggled up on her dog bed or another comfy spot of a pile of laundry or blankets. Her greatest challenge was getting used to the halti but overtime she learned to “tolerate” it when needed. We are very proud that she has grown into a confident, reliable, happy girl. Best wishes to sweet Gait as she begins this new journey as a guide! ~ the Yang family 

Photos of the Team…