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Andy and Zeb

The February 16, 2024 graduation ceremony was sponsored by the Leach family of Dayton, Ohio in honor of Charlene Kirkwood of Bristol, Vermont, who raised Guiding Eyes Zeb, paired with Andy Leach. Thank you for your love and dedication.

Meet Graduate Andy

Andrew is next to yellow Lab guide dog  Zeb as they sit for their team portraitGraduate Team:  Andrew and Zeb
About the Team:  Zeb, a male yellow Lab, is Andrew’s 5th guide dog and 1stt from Guiding Eyes
Location:  Vandalia, Ohio
Training: February 2024 On-Campus

Andy is a seasoned guide dog handler.  Zeb is his first guide from Guiding Eyes, but his 5th guide dog overall.  Andy earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Ohio and later pursued an MBA from Clemson University in South Carolina. Since 2019, he has been serving as a contract specialist at the Wright-Patterson Air Force base. In this role, he collaborates with small businesses to create contracts that offer new technologies to the Air Force. Apart from work, he loves spending time with his friends and family, including his four young grandchildren. Andy also enjoys outdoor activities, reading books, and following college and high school sports, especially football.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Zeb is a gentle giant.  He’s a big guy weighing in at 80 pounds, but he is very loving and is often wagging his tail.  He puts his head right into his harness when it is time to work.  I mostly work from home, but when I do go into the office Zeb goes with me.  Zeb and my 12-year-old, retired guide, Brie get along well.  In the few short weeks since Zeb arrived, they have chosen to share a dog bed.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “Earlier in my career, I sold adaptive technology for the blind and visually impaired community.  I was able to observe dogs from a variety of guide dog schools. The dogs from Guiding Eyes always impressed me as being solid and skilled guides. When it was time to retire my guide, Brie, I decided to apply to Guiding Eyes. I am so glad I did and now I am happy to have Zeb!”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life?  “My relationship with my guide dog can be best described as a reciprocal partnership. I got my first guide dog while in college.  A guide dog requires time and commitment on the part of the handler, however the return on that investment is huge. The effort I put into teaching and caring for my guides, comes right back to me through their work ethic and dedication. With a guide dog, I enjoy an enhanced quality of life and new opportunities to learn and grow.  I am confident venturing into unfamiliar places.  A guide dog also makes others aware that I am blind. I find people to be more considerate of me when I am with my dog, rather than a cane.”

Were there any training highlights? “I trained at the Guiding Eyes campus in Yorktown Heights. I was impressed by the facilities. Small details, like which door the dogs use to exit vs. enter a building, really demonstrate the thoroughness of the training.  The trainers are very approachable and know a lot about each dog. Although I am experienced working with guide dogs, I find I learn something new from each trainer, and this was true at Guiding Eyes. A highlight was taking the train with Zeb. Training in an environment that is unfamiliar to both the person and the dog is very valuable.  It demonstrates what the dog is capable of and helps build the bond and trust of the team.”

Meet Guide Dog Zeb

DOB:  9/24/2021
Litter ID: 2ZZ21
Color/Breed:  Yellow/Labrador
Gender: Male
Brood: Nyla
Stud: Everett
Littermates: Zephyr, Zach, Zoe, Zodiac, Zest, Ziti, Zircon
Region:  Central CT
Regional Puppy Instructor: Maureen Hollis
Puppy Raiser:  Charlene & Dave Kirkwood
Facebook: Central CT Puppy Raisers

From the Puppy Raiser…

Zeb aka Zebbie, was a smart lovable goofy pup. During his time with us we went through lots of changes including building a house ourselves. Zeb mastered long car rides and managing a construction site. He could chill out while we worked just waiting for lunch when he would get a frozen Kong. He loved to swim and play at the lake. Zebbie enjoyed many family dinners in various restaurants and breweries. Zeb will be remembered for having the best house manners! We moved between a house, a motor home and an apartment and he alway adapted as long as he had a few toys and his food bucket! We wish you many years of happiness with Zebbie. ~ Charlene Kirkwood

Photos of the Team…