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April 2012 Graduating Class

Our Graduates:
Joseph Fleeks & Clyde
Joseph Fortier & Alana
Alberto Gonzales & Boston
Gloria and Token
James Hodges & Gifford
James Leach & Tripp
Susan Ortiz & Malone
Craig Widdecombe & Henrietta
Christina Wood & Luigi

Home Training Graduates:
Margaret Gardner & Kelley
Connie Ryan & Amity
Maurice Tanter & Jeeper

Many thanks to our instructors:

Melinda Angstrom, Class Supervisor
Michelle Tang, Class Instructor
Lori Busse, Class Instructor
Graham Buck, ACTION Instructor
Andrea Martine, Special Needs Instructor
James Gardner, Home Training Instructor
Krissy Andersen, Home Training Instructor
Julie Angle, Special Needs Home Training Instructor
Shane Chadbourne, Instructor Assistant

Joseph Fleeks and Clyde

Joseph “JT” Fleeks will return home to Texas with Clyde, a male yellow Labrador and his first guide dog.

JT was about to graduate high school with two football scholarship offers when a drive-by shooting changed everything.  The bullet took JT’s sight and dramatically altered his career path.    JT now attends the University of Houston.  He majors in psychology and plans to become a rehab counselor for people dealing with the life-changing effects of traumatic injuries.  He is still very athletic – playing beep baseball and learning blind golf.   JT is looking forward to returning to campus. “With Clyde I won’t get lost and I’ll be able to get to class on time. I will prove to others that a visual impairment is not a disability.”


Joseph Fortier and Alana

Canadian Joseph Fortier was matched with Alana, a female yellow Labrador and his first guide dog.

Joe was born with congenital cataracts and retinal detachment. Surgery corrected his vision and he was able to see for most of his life.  Although he knew he would be blind one day, it has still been a difficult transition.  Joe works as an operator for the telephone company and is preparing for retirement.  He’s an avid reader, enjoys writing and is learning how to sail.  He is excited to return home with Alana – to walk independently while relaxing along the way.  He looks forward to the new adventures they’ll share.



Alberto Gonzales and Boston

Alberto Gonzales lives in Washington State.  He was paired with a male black Labrador named Boston.

Alberto was born in 1973 during a major outbreak of German measles; he was diagnosed with rubella and doctors were unable to control the disease.  Alberto ultimately lost both his sight and hearing. After graduating from high school, Alberto studied independent living skills before going to work at The Lighthouse.  He thinks about becoming a teacher, and he knows he will certainly teach others about the positive impact of having a guide dog.  Alberto enjoys horseback riding, swimming, reading, camping and traveling.  He has a wonderful sense of humor and is looking forward to traveling and family vacations with his wife, daughter and Boston. “It’s good not having to use a cane. The dog is leading me and I like it.”


Gloria and Token

Gloria is paired with Token, a female yellow Labrador.







James Hodges and Gifford

Jim Hodges is from Florida and is paired with his first guide dog – male German Shepherd Gifford.

A head injury in the mid-nineties caused Jim to have seizures and low vision.  A previous dog detected seizures, but as Jim’s vision changed for the worse, he felt he needed a guide dog. Jim is a musician; he’s a member of ASCAP and works as an Internet DJ.  He enjoys fishing and shooting targets at the rifle range.  He fulfilled a promise to his mom by owning his own home and recently marrying his sweetheart of 25 years.  “I knew I wanted a shepherd… Gifford and I bonded immediately.  The future is filled with promise.  I am confident I will achieve my dream of performing in Nashville.”


James Leach and Tripp

Kentucky resident Jimmy will return home with a male black Labrador named Tripp.

Jimmy has retinitis pigmentosa; he is totally blind at night and describes his daytime vision to be “like the focus on the camera is broken.”  Jimmy was born in Kentucky and raises Tennessee Walking Horses.  His father started the business specializing in show horses and today Jimmy sells the gentle breed as pleasure horses.  He also owns a tack shop and sells saddles and bridles that he makes himself.  Jimmy enjoys fishing, movies, going out to dinner and spending time with his granddaughter.  He is looking forward to the independence and freedom of travel with Tripp.  His experience at Guiding Eyes has surpassed his expectations.  He shares, “These are some of the smartest dogs I’ve ever been around.  The people really care about the students and the dogs – not just doing a job.”


Susan Ortiz and Malone

Susan Ortiz will return to Florida with Malone, a male black Labrador and her first guide dog.

Susan was born in Philadelphia.  She majored in business and became an aviation manager with the Navy.  Two strokes left her with an ongoing seizure disorder and blindness.  She is now retired and volunteers at hospice comforting the patients and assisting with clerical work.  Susan still has a little sight in her left eye and decided it was best to get a guide dog before she becomes totally blind.  “I was scared at first, but as our bond formed I began to trust him.  Malone knows his job.  It will be wonderful walking to the local shops independently.” She enjoys creative projects like crochet and she plans to incorporate beading into future designs.  She is looking forward to attending her grandsons first birthday this summer and taking a cruise.


Craig Widdecombe and Henrietta

Craig Widdecombe was matched with yellow Labrador Henrietta.  They return to his home state of Maine.

Craig was born with retinitis pigmentosa and began to lose his sight in his late 30’s.  His vision got to a point where he no longer felt comfortable on his own and began to depend on a cane. One of Craig’s best experiences with Henrietta was their first walk together at night. Craig stopped going out in the dark because his blindness made him too nervous.  With Henrietta by his side, he felt safe.  Now Craig looks forward to eating out, enjoying the company of friends and traveling to new and interesting places.


Christina Wood and Luigi

Christina Wood returns to Guiding Eyes from California. She is paired with a male black Labrador named Luigi.

Retinitis pigmentosa caused Christina’s vision loss.  Christina’s family had the opportunity to live in many different places with their Navy father.   This year, Christina will graduate from San Francisco State University with her master’s degree in Special Education; she’ll volunteer at a pre-school this summer while scouting for a permanent position.  In her free time, Christina makes quilts, practices yoga and spends time with her family.  Luigi will provide much-needed safety, and Christina is already planning her next quilt – large enough for both of them to cuddle under.