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April 2011 Graduating Class

picture of April 2011 graduating class
Patricia A. Colvin & Tempo
Diego Luciano de Castro & Frito
Douglas W. Lamb & Wendell
Stephanie Love & Eben
Marcel Marcondes Guimaraes & Vassar
Odete Delice Moreira & Viola
Miguel Perez & Abba
Julie Ann Phillipson & Viggo
David Pruszynski & Selby

Home Training Graduates
Veronica Cole & Clancey
Nancy Levy & Frazier
Ted Maggio & Amiga
Eleanor Street & Max
Jennifer Maybury Woods & Dustin

Many thanks to our instructors:
Melinda Angstrom, Class Supervisor
Graham Buck, ACTION Instructor
Justine DiNapoli, Class Instructor
Kate Schroer-Shepord, Class Instructor
Julie Angle, Special Needs Home Training Instructor
Woody Curry, Home Training Instructor
John Detloff, Home Training Field Representative
James Gardner, Home Training Instructor
Gary Jakubos, Home Training Field Representative
Alyssa Tilley, Instructor Assistant

Image of Patricia ColvinPatricia A. Colvin and Tempo
Patricia Colvin comes to Guiding Eyes from Tennessee. She has been paired with Tempo, a yellow female Lab and her first guide dog.

Patricia was a crossing guard with the police department before becoming blind.  Toxoplasmosis caused her blindness, and her daughter’s face at birth was the last face she saw.  She went back to college and became a Special Ed teacher. The college had no prior experience with a blind student and Patricia paved the way for future students.

When not working, Patricia enjoys playing the piano and growing flowers. Her passion for dogs has her making them from yarn and wire – a craft she is particularly fond of.  She loves being involved with her grandkids and takes care of them when their mom travels for work. They forget she can’t see.

Patricia has always been independent, and felt now was the right time to add a guide dog to her life.  She worried about bonding with her new dog, but her concerns faded away when she met Tempo.  The team works well together, and Patricia feels significantly more independent.  She can take do her errands on her own, without having to wait for someone to help.  She feels Tempo has become a part of her.

Image of Diego Luciano de Castro and FritoDiego Luciano de Castro and Frito
Diego Luciano de Castro, 24, traveled from Brazil to be matched with his very first guide dog – yellow Labrador Frito.

Diego was born prematurely and lost his sight in high school as a result of retinal detachment.  His mother died when he was very young.  As a fiercely determined kid, he hired his own English tutor at just 11 years old.

Diego works full time as an administrative assistant and attends college classes in the evenings.  He’ll soon graduate with a degree in Business Administration, and looks forward to a future career that will help to support his extended family.

When not working or studying, Diego enjoys singing with a chorus, swimming, surfing the internet, and going out with his friends.

Diego adores Frito, and says that the gentle Labrador seems to understand how he feels.  The team already has a special bond.   “Independence is something I really need.  A cane was useful, but I still needed help.  Frito is changing everything for me. I’m dreaming about my future now in the same way I did before I lost my sight.”

Image of Douglas W. Lamb and WendellDouglas W. Lamb and Wendell
Black Labrador Wendell is Doug Lamb’s first guide dog.  They will return home to Florida where Doug lives with his wife.  The couple has three grown sons.

Douglas has a long and varied career.  He was a helicopter door gunner in Vietnam, and upon his return, drove Formula A race cars.  Along the way he earned his communications degree from the University of Oregon and began teaching.  He became the director of admissions at a junior college in Florida.  Doug also spent time working as a private investigator and managing his own advertising agency.

Doug was working as a bus driver when he went to renew his CDL license.  He was unable to pass the Department of Transportation’s eye test.  The exact cause of his blindness is unknown, but there is scar tissue on both retinas which caused his sight to deteriorate.

Wendell is exactly what Douglas expected and more.  Returning home with Wendell, Douglas believes it will take three months to get settled and acclimated to working together. After that, he wants to represent Guiding Eyes in his area, becoming a walking and talking example of the guide dog movement. “We become ambassadors for the school and for the blind community as well. We are given a marvelous opportunity and I feel a responsibility to give back.”

Image of Stephanie Love and EbenStephanie Love and Eben
Maryland resident Stephanie Love received Eben, a male German shepherd.

Stephanie owns a horse farm lives in a townhouse in a small town filled with seniors and young families with children. It is a community of people that go out of their way to be helpful; they can’t wait to meet Stephanie’s new dog.

Diabetic retinopathy caused Stephanie’s sight loss.  She holds an associate’s degree in electronics and a business management degree from the University of Maryland.  Stephanie stays very active.  She enjoys walking and spends at least 5 days a week at the gym.  She takes weekly Tai Chi classes and rides her horse regularly.  Around the house, she enjoys caring for her garden and house plants.

Stephanie and Eben bonded very quickly, and Stephanie is looking forward to their future together.  Eben will keep her from missing a curb or falling down steps; she is excited to be able to confidently go everywhere she wants to go.

Image of Marcel Marcondes Guimaraes and VassarMarcel Marcondes Guimaraes and Vassar
Marcel Marcondes Guimaraes comes to Guiding Eyes from Brazil.  He was matched with Vassar, a yellow male Lab.

Marcel was born with sight and was upset when, at 21, the doctors told him he would go blind as a result of hereditary glaucoma.  He helped his younger brother through school and saw how difficult blindness was.  He was concerned about the discrimination experienced by the blind; he wondered if he would be able to maintain friendships, have a girlfriend, and find employment.

Marcel found life with vision loss was not as bad as he imagined it would be.  He plays guitar, uses computers, works out regularly, and has a girlfriend of seven years.  His college degree is in history, and currently he works for the Brazilian government.

Friends introduced Marcel to guide dogs. When he contacted The Guide Dog Foundation in Brazil, he was told they are only supporting graduates, and no new students are being admitted.  Coming to Guiding Eyes is something unforgettable – an experience Marcel will remember his whole life.  Having a guide dog was his dream; Vassar fulfills Marcel’s needs and expectations – he is excited to be able to travel as he wants without asking others for help.

Image of Odete Delice Moreira and ViolaOdete Delice Moreira and Viola
Odete Delice Moreira returns to Guiding Eyes for her second guide dog, yellow Labrador Viola.

Odete is married and has a son. Her now retired guide dog, JK, was like a second son, and now Odete feels she has a daughter – Viola.

Retinal detachment caused Odete’s sight loss. It was hard in the beginning.  She had to re-learn how to do everything, including how to walk.  But Odete was determined.

Odete is a therapist and has a graduate degree in interpersonal psychology.  She works with pottery and takes classes at the university.  She is a competition swimmer, and also enjoys spending time hiking and on the beach.

Odete is thankful for the influence of Guiding Eyes.  She thanks the employees, volunteers and everyone who supports the mission. “Life is short. When one door closed for me, many other doors and windows were opened. I met many amazing, important people after becoming blind, people I may not otherwise have met.”

Image of Miguel Perez and AbbaMiguel Perez and Abba
New Yorker Miguel Perez was matched with Abba, a black female Labrador and his first guide dog.

Miguel owns a travel agency and works with his family’s construction company.  When he was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, he transitioned from field work to office work, with responsibilities for ordering, payroll and phone sales.

Miguel likes walking, especially on the beach.  He spends time with family and friends and enjoys soccer.  He likes old cars and Harley Davidsons; a favorite old car was a 1964 Mustang.

Miguel doesn’t see himself as being any different from a sighted person. He bought his business, bought a house, and works like everyone else.  However, having a guide dog has greatly improved his mobility.  “This has been a life-changing experience. I wish I had done this years ago. I can’t believe what the dogs can do and how comfortable working with Abba is, like she is a part of me.”

Image of Julie Ann Phillipson and ViggoJulie Ann Phillipson and Viggo
New York resident Julie Phillipson returns home with yellow Lab Viggo.  Julie had a benign brain tumor that put pressure on her optic nerve.  She is totally blind in her left eye, and has limited vision in her right eye.

Julie works from home as a consultant.  She provides information to various agencies in disaster preparedness, training drills, and on how to handle service animals in a crisis situation.  She is working on a manual and training program for first responders dealing with people with disabilities. In an emergency, service dogs have to stay with their owners; managing that situation is part of what Julie is working on.

Julie holds a bachelor of arts in sociology with a minor in women’s studies and a masters degree. She is a member of the Executive Board of the New York State Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped and she is an active member of the National Federation of the Blind.

Julie enjoys walking, exercise, reading, and playing with her dogs.  She is fortunate to be able to keep her retired dogs.

Viggo and Julie bonded quickly. “He is super cautious and really good with traffic.” Julie is looking forward to getting Viggo settled in her apartment and her routine. “The quality of the dogs and training techniques make the dogs easier to handle.  And the dogs love their work!”

Image of David Pruszynski and SelbyDavid Pruszynski and Selby
Dave Pruszynski returned to Guiding Eyes from Florida and was matched with yellow Lab female Selby – his sixth guide dog.   Dave was born with Retinitis Pigmentosa.  Bilateral Keratoconus developed in high school and corneal transplants caused his RP to progress.  Dave lost most of his sight by his freshman year of college.

Dave is married and has four stepchildren and five step-grandchildren.  He retired from psychotherapy and went to massage school.  Now he shares two large Florida practices with his wife.

Dave absolutely loves horses and wishes he could spend every day in the saddle.  He also enjoys reading.

The responsibility of a dog was daunting to Dave, who happily traveled with a cane.  However, after “test-driving” a guide dog one day, Dave was a quick convert.  “A guide dog is the only mobility aid that gives you a pair of working eyes and there is nothing that can replace that.  You become more mobile and more efficient.”

Dave threw a retirement party for his previous dog, Elmore.  He was surprised at how many people showed up. He is looking forward to introducing Selby to her new life in Florida.  This will include meeting the 6 pound pet Yorkie, the African grey parrot, and the family cat!

Veronica Cole and Clancey (Home Training)

Nancy Levy and Frazier (Home Training)

Ted Maggio and Amiga (Home Training)

Eleanor (Lee) Street and Max (Home Training)

Jennifer Maybury Woods and Dustin (Home Training)