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April 2010 Graduating Class

Home Training / Special Needs Graduates

And many thanks to our instructors…

John Goss and Manfred

John Goss, a 45 year old resident of Florida, was recently matched with his second Guiding Eyes dog, Manfred. John was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa when he was five years old and his vision progressively declined. John stated that he has always liked having pets and a guide dog provides companionship and independence. “I think it gives you more confidence. Life is less work with a dog. With a dog you just float. You can travel more, go new places,” he stated.

John has an Associates degree in arts from Pennsacola Junior College. He enjoys NASCAR races and working on the computer.

Congratulations to Manfred’s puppy raisers – Suzan and Lorenzo Bocciarelli, and Leslie Stephens

Birgitta Herrmann and RhondaPhoto of B Herrmann & Rhonda

Birgitta Herrmann traveled all the way from Germany to be matched with her second Guiding Eyes dog, Rhonda.

When she was eighteen months old Birgitta contracted a rare disease known as Still’s Syndrome, a form of strep throat. Birgitta spiked a high fever which ultimately caused her to progressively lose her eyesight, becoming totally blind by the age of 11.

Growing up Birgitta attended a variety of schools. She received an undergraduate degree in human nutrition from Michigan State University. Birgitta went on to receive a Masters degree from the University of Illinois. Currently she teaches nutrition and biology to adolescents in Germany. She enjoys teaching, volunteering and singing in a gospel choir.

Birgitta learned about Guiding Eyes for the Blind in 1998 from a friend who was partnered with a Guiding Eyes dog. She researched the school and enjoyed a long, productive partnership with her first guide, Bonnie.

Birgitta is confident that she and Guiding Eyes Rhonda will build an equally special bond. Birgitta commented, “Rhonda is so smart and intuitive. She is playful and attentive. A guide dog provides a second dimension that a cane cannot give you and that is love. You cannot compare it. This little furry member by your side shares and supports my conviction to achieve something.”

Congratulations to Rhonda’s puppy raisers – Seth Harrison and The Harrison Family

Freda Horne and Debbie

Freda Horne began to lose sight in one eye in 1999 as the result of diabetic retinopathy. The disease progressed to the point where she lost almost all of her vision by 2004.

Freda lives in North Carolina, is married, and has two grown children and three grandchildren. She had always led a productive, active life, and was determined to continue living this way even as her eyesight deteriorated. She felt that a guide dog would provide her with companionship and greater mobility and after thorough Internet research, Freda sought out the services offered by Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

A registered nurse, Freda is now employed by Lions Services Incorporated. She is a member of her local Lions Club and volunteers regularly in the nursery at her church. In addition, she volunteers for the American Red Cross and is in the process of becoming trained as a certified instructor to teach CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) to blind students. Guiding Eyes Debbie will help Freda travel to all of these places independently and safely.

Congratulations to Debbie’s puppy raiser – Barbara McCabe

Christopher Mason and Andy

Massachusetts resident Christopher Mason was diagnosed in 1975 with a hereditary form of glaucoma. Even with treatment Christopher’s eyesight declined to the point when 14 years ago he became legally blind.

Christopher joined the April class for his second Guiding Eyes dog. When his first guide Austin grew too old and began to develop arthritis, Christopher knew it would be best to return him to his puppy raisers to live out his retirement romping in the country. Although it was difficult to part with Austin, Christopher is certain that his new guide, Andy, will develop into a wonderful partner as well.

Once a professional vocal performer and opera singer, Christopher now enjoys living in his urban setting. He volunteers for the Mystic Valley Council on the Aging. Christopher enjoys cooking and running errands for people who live in his building. He is also a master at growing African violets and spends countless hours tending to a collection of more than one hundred plants.

When asked to reflect on his training at Guiding Eyes, Christopher stated that he has been fortunate to have developed a comfortable rapport with the staff. “It’s been a full spectrum experience. It’s trying, tough at times, which is to be expected. I’ve learned an awful lot about myself. Lots of fun. Lots of laughs,” he chuckled.

Congratulations to Andy’s puppy raisers – Pam and Courtney Bennis

Everett O’Neal and Celeste

For 25 year old Everett O’Neal, the past few years have presented him with far more challenges than most young people ever face. Everett began losing his vision in 2006 and by 2007 he was left with little residual eyesight. After numerous misdiagnoses Everett was told he had an inoperable brain tumor.

Everett lives with his mother and four younger siblings in Massachusetts. In addition to Everett’s medical problems, his mother, Cynthia suffered a stroke and lost her eyesight as well. Everett revealed that he and his mother have motivated each other to get guide dogs through Guiding Eyes for the Blind. Cynthia received her guide, Vance, last month and Everett has been partnered with Celeste, a beautiful, black Lab. Everett shared, “We like dogs and we want to get around. I’ve watched people travel around much faster and more safely with guide dogs.”

Everett received mobility training at the Carroll Center for the Blind in Newton, Massachusetts. He is interested in pursuing further education in the technology field. Everett enjoys listening to all types of music.

Reflecting on his time at the Guiding Eyes for the Blind facility he commented, “I came here homesick but everybody here is fantastic – from the training staff to the kitchen staff. They make you work but they go above and beyond.”

Congratulations to Celeste’s puppy raiser – Joan Morehouse

James O’Neill and Baja

Jim O’Neill was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa when he was a child and became legally blind three years ago. That was when Jim began to seriously consider how a guide dog might improve his life.

Jim did thorough Internet research and was especially impressed by the detail of information provided by the Guiding Eyes for the Blind website.

Jim, who is a huge dog lover, had been without a pet for some time. “I welcome a new dog by my side. Baja and I have bonded, big time. She is very affectionate and has brought me out so I can show my feelings more,” he shared.

Jim’s enjoys the outdoors. He is looking forward to taking Baja on fishing trips and hikes. He likes to listen to audio books in the science fiction/fantasy genre. He has a passion for working with computers and especially enjoys helping others get over their fears of computers.

Jim cited that traveling with a guide dog rather than a cane is like being in a completely different world. He reflected that his training at Guiding Eyes has been phenomenal. “The staff adapts to our needs. The experience is very down home and inviting,” he stated.

Congratulations to Baja’s puppy raisers – Paul and Linda Cross

Robert Palaski and O’Rourke

Robert Palaski, a thirty-nine year old Connecticut resident, was recently matched with his second Guiding Eyes dog, O’Rourke. Robert was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa in 1997. He decided to become a guide dog handler for many reasons: he loves dogs and feels much more confident with a dog than a cane. He chose Guiding Eyes for its close proximity to his home and for its reputation.

Robert graduated from The Connecticut Center for Massage Therapy in 2002 and opened his own massage therapy practice in 2007.

Robert regularly attends monthly meetings sponsored by The National Federation of the Blind. Spontaneous by nature, Robert is always ready to join friends for an evening out. He enjoys playing on the computer and going for walks. Soon his new guide, O’Rourke, will be joining Robert and his 10-year old Dachshund for regular outings.

Congratulations to O’Rourke’s puppy raiser – Janelle R. Little