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April 2019 Graduating Class

Congratulations to our April 2019 Graduating Class!

Congratulations to the April 2019 graduates, guides, and all those involved! We wish you a lifetime of fun and adventure with your four-legged partners.       

  -University of Rhode Island Puppy Raisers Club

Residential Graduates:         

David and Kendrick
Dorothy and Delaney
Elizabeth and Sylvia
Erin and Gaston
Louanne and Gunner
Michael and Jethro
Patricia and Iowa|
Phillip and Sheldon
Stephen and Mae
Sergio and Illa
Thomas and Lynx
Vanessa and ThimbleHome Training Graduates:

Ashley and Mikey
Kenneth and Pebbles
Robert and Amore

Many thanks to our
Training Staff:

Class Supervisor: Kathryn Poallo
Class Instructors: Caryn Fellows, Allison Greenberg, Deanna Lentini
Running Guide Specialist: Nick Speranza
Instructor Assistant: Rachel Stein
Home Training Instructors: Graham Buck, Miranda Beckmann and Lisa Derleth

We gratefully acknowledge the Fain Family’s support of our video streaming capabilities.

Meet the Residential Training Graduates

Graduate Team: David and Kendrick
About the Team: Kendrick, a male yellow lab, is David’s 1st guide dog
Hometown: Baton Rouge, Louisiana

David has been licensed as an Occupational Therapy Assistant for 20 years. In July of 2019, David will be making a career change by entering a Business Enterprise Program and participating in Food Manager training. David enjoys walking, working out at the gym, and barista duties – roasting and preparing coffee and espresso.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Kendrick is strong, fast, and energetic. He’s very smart and well-trained. The first time we walked, we clicked. I was like, oh, that’s the one right there.

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes?  “I lost my vision a couple of years ago in both eyes. I did orientation and mobility and other training to improve my independence. Once I had mastered the cane, I felt I might like using a guide dog more. I knew having a dog would improve my mobility and let me go where I wanted to. Having a dog is a responsibility, but a dog also exercises the mind and the body.”

What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog? “We will work together as a team! I’ll be able to travel more with my partner, Kendrick, because he’s going to make it possible for me to travel safely. In December, I’ll be going to Honduras to check out a coffee farm for my future business.”

Were there any training highlights? “The first time I walked with Kendrick it was like jumping in a self-driving car. Kendrick dodges everything – poles, garbage cans – and I just move with his body. It takes courage to adjust, but you’ve got to trust the dog.” 

Congratulations to Kendrick’s Puppy Raisers, Cora and Dick Martin!

Graduate Team:  Dorothy and Delaney
About the Team:  Delaney, a female black and tan lab, is Dorothy’s 2nd Guiding Eyes dog
Hometown:   Sudbury, Ontario, Canada

Dorothy’s previous career was as a rehabilitation teacher for the blind. She continues to be an avid cross-country skier, going out regularly throughout the winter months. Dorothy has not only competed in races, she’s won two bronze medals. She describes her new guide Delaney as “pretty awesome”!

How would you describe your guide dog? “Delaney is sweet, gentle and very affectionate. She is not only eager to work; you can tell she is eager to do good work.  I feel comfortable with her. It’s really a good match and we’re going to be great together.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “My first dog, Adler, was from Guiding Eyes and I was really impressed, not only with the program, but also the support from the instructors, field reps and veterinary staff. I wouldn’t go anywhere else.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “My first guide dog taught me how to trust, and how to love and about patience. Those are gifts I feel so blessed to have and it’s made me a better person.”

Were there any training highlights? “The independence of free travel and walking at a good pace down a sidewalk makes a difference. Delaney is very strong, and her ability to maneuver and shift from left to right is so amazing.  It’s quite an experience to be guided by her around obstacles.”

Congratulations to Delaney’s Puppy Raiser, Dianne Martin!

Graduate Team: Elizabeth and Sylvia
About the Team: Sylvia, a female yellow lab, is Liz’s first guide dog
Hometown: Fitchburg, Massachusetts

Liz lives in Massachusetts with her husband and son and works from home as an Insurance Claims Adjustor. She loves to spend time with her son at the park, attend plays that he performs in, and enjoy the outdoors around her neighborhood. Liz is really looking forward to going home with Sylvia and experiencing easier, stress-free travel with her by her side.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Sylvia is such a happy, social dog. She will give you tons of kisses, if you allow her to. There are so many things that I could say about her. She is highly intelligent and confident, and she loves to work.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I wanted to be more independent. Now that I’m a mom, I don’t want to be held back from going to all the places my son wants to go. I came to Guiding Eyes because everyone always has such nice things to say about the organization. Being away from my family could have been difficult, but Guiding Eyes has made me so comfortable here.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “My confidence has changed so much. Before, if I wanted to get up and do something I would have to think about the logistics of how to get there. I can’t wait to get home with Sylvia and not have to worry about the pavement right in front of me. I can enjoy my surroundings more.”

Were there any training highlights? “Escalator training was awesome. Doing them without a dog can be very stressful, but doing them with Sylvia was ‘easy-peasy’. That is the most confident I have felt since I arrived here.”

What advice would you give to someone thinking about getting a guide dog? “I would tell them that your life needs stability and you should be comfortable having a routine.  If you are able to handle the responsibility of a dog, then that is definitely the way to go.”

Congratulations to Sylvia’s Puppy Raiser, The Hermann Family and Avis Hull!

Graduate Team:  Erin and Gaston
About the Team:  Gaston, a male black lab, is Erin’s 1st guide dog
Hometown:   Jackson, Tennessee

Erin is looking forward to returning to college in Fall 2019, to continue her pursuit of a degree in Social Work. She says, Gaston is “going to be a college boy”.  She’s been told by others he’s so handsome, he’ll make a lot of friends on campus!

How would you describe your guide dog? “Gaston is pretty special. He’s a good boy – focused on what we’re doing in harness, yet still like a playful puppy when off harness.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “As my vision was declining, I realized I needed the independence and confidence to travel around safely. I’ll need that when I return to school, and hope to get a part time job, as well. I’m very impressed with Guiding Eyes. From the kitchen staff to the trainers; everyone is very patient and willing to help out.”

What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog?  “I’m looking forward to the independence that comes with traveling more safely with Gaston. I’m also excited about returning home, so my family can meet him. They’re excited to meet him, too!”

Were there any training highlights? “He’s been doing such a good job. He’s my first guide dog, so a lot of what he does surprises me. I really love that he can guide me around people. I can actually look up at tall buildings and not worry as much about where my feet are going!”

Congratulations to Gaston’s Puppy Raisers, The Trapp Family!

Graduate Team:  Louanne and Gunner
About the Team:  Gunner, a male black lab, is Lusi’s 4th Guiding Eyes dog
Raleigh, North Carolina

Lusi, a retired teacher and former lobbyist, has been a guide dog user for over 25 years. She enjoys quiet pursuits like reading and cooking, but is also enthusiastic about long walks and staying active. Lusi appreciates the freedom and safety that comes with having a well-trained guide dog like Gunner.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Gunner is wonderful! He works so well; very confident and independent. Sometimes he looks at me like ‘Is that what you want?’, but he knows he did it right! Out of harness, he’s so funny and likes to tease me.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “It’s just the best school! I know I can trust what they do here. Beyond the training, the connection with the puppy raisers and incredible follow-up after graduation, are absolute bonuses for me. I retired my last guide dog with his puppy raiser.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “It has made my life a whole lot easier! I would still go out with a cane, but I find it so much easier with a dog. I love to go out for long walks, but in my neighborhood, there are broken sidewalks, curbs, gutters, and construction. A guide dog makes it less stressful to get out and go. I know I’ll be safe.”

Were there any training highlights?  “He is so good at curbs – it’s awesome! We’ve even been able to target the broken pavement during training.”

What advice would you give to someone thinking about getting a guide dog? “Look at the different  schools and compare them to what you want. Connect with other guide dog users who may have advice.”

Congratulations to Gunner’s Puppy Raisers, The Bosley-Smith Family and Alison Lund!

Graduate Team:  Michael and Jethro
About the Team: Jethro, a male black lab, is Michael’s 1st guide dog
Hometown: Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Michael lives in Ft. Lauderdale and has worked in multiple industries. An accomplished architect, Michael has worked in Urban Farming, and is interested in exploring new business ventures in the realm of civic engagement, including guided urban walking tours. He is very passionate about being involved in the community.  Michael is looking forward to visiting public venues independently and getting out to local events with the increased freedom Jethro will bring.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Jethro and I definitely have a well-matched temperament. He is powerful, yet sensitive and loving. This personality carries over into his work. He works conscientiously and sensitively;  always aware of what’s going on around me.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “My Orientation & Mobility instructor suggested Guiding Eyes. Also, I sit on the Board of Directors at The Lighthouse in Broward County, so I know others who have gotten their guide dogs here. Everyone has spoken very positively about their experience.”

What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog?  “I believe there are two main parts to having a guide dog – the increase in mobility and activities, and the relationship between you and your companion.  I’ve really been recognizing the ease of traveling with a guide dog. It feels very different from walking with a cane. I find myself trying to utilize habits that I’ve been learning throughout my training here and I’m quite proud of what I’ve learned.”

Were there any training highlights? “Meeting everyone else and learning from everyone’ experiences has been a highlight. I also appreciate that the program is very clear, authentic and comfortable. Learning these new techniques has been my favorite part. It is a true skill that we are learning here and it’s been a fun skill to learn!”

Congratulations to Jethro’s Puppy Raisers, Doris Dennee & Michael Eaton and Helen West & Susan Kroha!

Graduate Team:  Patricia and Iowa
About the Team: Iowa, a male yellow lab, is Pat’s 8th guide dog
Hometown: Malvern, Pennsylvania

Pat is enjoying retirement after working as a social worker for nearly 40 years. She is an experienced guide dog user who loves to get out and about. She particularly enjoys water activities – swimming, water aerobics or her favorite, water cycling.  She sums up having a guide dog as “Dignity, self-respect, freedom and independence. That’s what it’s all about for me.”

How would you describe your guide dog? “Iowa is very loving. He’s really, really capable out on the walks. There are no personal safety concerns; I feel very well cared for in his paws! He’s a considerate worker and stops on a dime. He can be very funny. I’m so impressed that if I ask him where his bone is, he will run and get it without fail.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes?  “My goal has always been to maintain and fulfill my sense of wellbeing through independence. I had friends who were graduates and I liked the way they were trained. Then I came here for the first time and I liked the program and how these dogs are trained. You come back to where it’s good. Guiding Eyes has good solid dependable dogs.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “Having a guide dog has given me the confidence to move around freely, go to college, join the workforce. I wouldn’t have been able to do it as comfortably or with as much dignity and self-respect, if I hadn’t had a guide dog. It made a big impact, not only on my life, but on my mother’s years ago. It put her mind at ease that I would be safe.”

Were there any training highlights? “I am very impressed with the kindness of the people at this facility. Nothing is ever too much trouble. The staff is patient with questions and stories and always very kind. The kitchen staff goes out of their way to make things better for you. I refer to it as a culture of kindness.”

Congratulations to Iowa’s Puppy Raisers, Garry and Barb Paszul!

Graduate Team: Phillip and Sheldon
About the Team: Sheldon, a male yellow lab, is Phill’s 1st guide dog
Hometown: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Phill and his wife live in Philadelphia with their two-year-old son. He has worked in multiple government positions, as well as in fundraising capacities within his community. Phill is looking forward to introducing Sheldon to his little boy at the graduation ceremony and thinks they will take to each other right away.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Sheldon is such a good boy. He’s so smart and well trained, and disciplined when working. He is strong with high energy; definitely the perfect match for me. When I put the harness on Sheldon in the morning, it’s like flipping a light switch. He is ready to work.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “My eye doctor and I were talking about possibilities for the future and she pointed me in the direction of a guide dog. After some research, I decided I wanted to apply to here. From the first person I’ve talked with, to the last, I’ve been impressed with Guiding Eyes.”

What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog? I found that I was always looking down when using a cane, because once you identify an obstacle, you still have to navigate around it. Walking with Sheldon, he handles all of that on his own and we can just go.”

Were there any training highlights? “The professionalism, skill, and caring of the instructors is really amazing. They are very positive, patient, and empowering. I have worked with a lot of organizations, but I am really blown away by the people at Guiding Eyes. I’ve never encountered anything like it. I was feeling a bit anxious before I got here, but the level of caring has made it much easier. It really is remarkable.”

 Congratulations to Sheldon’s Puppy Raisers, Cheryl & Don Matczak and Kai Fang!

Graduate Team:  Sergio and Illa
About the Team:  Illa, a female yellow lab, is Sergio’s 2nd Guiding Eyes dog
Hometown:   Sao Paulo, Brazil

Sergio is a Project Manager at a major corporation in Sao Paulo, the largest city in Brazil. He says that mastering his English communication skills is an ongoing pursuit. His other interests include wood-working and hiking. He looks forward to introducing Illa to his workplace, since his co-workers (including upper management), were very interested in and playful with his retired dog, Camber!  

How would you describe your guide dog? “She is a very interesting dog – so full of energy. She is so happy and ready to play, but when working she is totally concentrated and very consistent. She’s a fantastic dog.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I used a cane for most of my life, and I was content with that, but then I started reading or talking to people about guide dogs.  A friend of mine in the U.S. researched guide dog schools for me and he said Guiding Eyes for the Blind was the best. I came here in 2010, for my first dog, Camber.” 

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “After getting my first guide dog, I discovered it could be a pleasure to walk. A guide dog gives an important gift. When you think you are alone, you have a friend. Providing a guide dog gives a blind person eyes to help, but it also gives them a friend.  Also, in society people interact differently with you when you have a guide dog. They are interested to get to know you, not just do you a favor.”

Were there any training highlights? “Illa sometimes surprises me! I have a very long way from home to my office, taking a bus, subways and a train service, often using escalators and elevators.  I had concerns about a new dog being comfortable with escalators and machines . During training, Illa took to the escalator so very easily! Fantastic.”

What advice would you give to someone thinking about getting a guide dog? “You should balance the benefits with the obligations. You have a dog who has necessities on a schedule – to eat, rest, be groomed, etc. We need to preserve our eyes. You need to preserve your dog like you would your eyes.”

Congratulations to Illa’s Puppy Raisers, Mr. Owen Walsh, Megan Chapin, Paul & Cindy Swift and Donna & Steven Derks

Graduate Team:  Stephen and Mae
About the Team: Mae, a female yellow lab, is Stephen’s 1st guide dog
Hometown: Birmingham, Alabama

Stephen works part-time, teaching independent living skills and Braille at the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind. He enjoys attending baseball games, watching basketball or football with friends, and is involved with the church band. Stephen looks forward to all the places he and Mae will be able to travel to, confidently as a team.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Mae is laid back, but really responsive. She’s very sweet and loyal – she loves to give kisses.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “Mainly it was the reputation and track record of Guiding Eyes.  I have friends who are graduates and they gave rave reviews. I really like the personal attention from staff.”

What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog? “I’m looking forward to working back home and experiencing travel with Mae. I’m planning a trip to Las Vegas later this year. I’m also looking forward to spring time walks and summer activities, like trips to the Gulf Shores beaches, amusement parks, cookouts and festivals.”

Were there any training highlights? “Definitely our first indoor harness training together; we started at my room and went to the dining room. It was just amazing, and such a thrill that she knew where to go. It was so smooth – she just zipped right up there. It was wonderful; one of those moments it really clicked, and I felt like this was the way it was meant to be.”

What advice would you give to someone thinking about getting a guide dog? “Dogs are a lot of responsibility, but it can be a good responsibility. The routine helps you to become more oriented and brings a sense of maturity. A guide dog is a great companion, so be sure you are ready to make that emotional connection and think about how a guide dog will improve and change your life.”

Congratulations to Mae’s Puppy Raiser, Denise M. Petza!

Graduate Team:   Thomas and Lynx
About the Team: Lynx, a male yellow lab, is Tom’s first guide dog
Hometown: Wasilla, Alaska

Tom is an avid outdoorsman from Alaska. He loves to hunt, fish, ride ATV’s, swim, and anything else that allows him to spend time outside. He recently graduated from an Occupational Therapy Assistant program and is looking forward to starting this new chapter of his career. Tom can’t wait to take Lynx on some outdoor adventures and is curious to see if he likes to swim!

How would you describe your guide dog? “Lynx is super loving and we’ve bonded so quickly. On harness he strives to be the best, and when he’s not working, he loves to have fun. We are such a good match; we hit it off, right off the bat.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I’ve wanted a guide dog for a long time, but never felt like it was the right time until now. I am finished with college and at a point in my life where I am ready for a guide dog. I chose Guiding Eyes after speaking with other guide dog users and hearing their experiences. I really feel that Guiding Eyes has one of the best programs in the country.”

What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog? Travel is a lot faster with a guide dog. I can focus on my surroundings while Lynx focuses on what’s ahead of me. The companionship is also a huge ‘pro’ to me. Not only can I travel faster, but I have a buddy that I can travel with. Also, I’m really looking forward to doing some fun runs with Lynx when we get the running harness.”

Were there any training highlights? “This is seriously a 5-star program. From day one, the staff, trainers, kitchen staff, instructor assistants, housekeeping… everyone here has been awesome. With Lynx, the successes that we’ve shared are the best moments. Every time he walks by a distraction and stays focused, or navigates an obstacle, I love being able to genuinely praise him and celebrate that.”

What advice would you give to someone thinking about getting a guide dog? “Be ready to make changes in your life. I’ve had to prepare to make this work, but the changes will be good for both of us and I welcome them. Make sure your environment is conducive to having a dog. You are a team.”

 Congratulations to Lynx’s Puppy Raisers, Bethany and David Oliver and Betty Goldfarb!

Graduate Team:  Vanessa and Thimble
About the Team:  Thimble, a female yellow lab, is Vanessa’s 1st guide dog
Hometown:   New Bern, North Carolina

Vanessa was the owner of a day care for children with special needs, but now she enjoys being retired. She loves to walk and also enjoys reading and car travel. Vanessa, a lifelong dog lover, knew from the moment she met Thimble, she was meant for her.

How would you describe your guide dog? “She has a sweet, loving, easy going personality. She listens well in harness and is patient with me. We’re a good match.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I researched guide dog schools and I knew Guiding Eyes’ program was the best suited to my hearing and learning disabilities. My trainer has been great – so patient and helpful. All the Guiding Eyes staff is wonderful; going above and beyond to accommodate us.”

What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog? “I look forward to her guiding me on walks and meeting my Chihuahua, Chi Chi, back home. Now that I’m retired I can come and go as I please, so Thimble and I will be visiting places and doing a lot of things together.” 

Were there any training highlights? “Escalators! I was apprehensive and concerned for her, but she was ready for it – like, ‘Let me do my job and follow me!’

What advice would you give to someone thinking about getting a guide dog? “Go for it. It’s an experience you will never forget. Just be sure to research schools to get the program that’s best for you and your needs.”

Congratulations to Thimble’s Puppy Raisers, Susan and Roger L’Hommedieu!

Meet the Home Training Graduates

Graduate Ashley and guide dog MikeyGraduate Team:   Ashley and Mikey
About the Team:  Mikey, a male black lab, is Ashley’s 2nd guide dog
Hometown:   Syracuse, New York

Ashley, received her master’s degree in Rehabilitative Counseling in May of 2018.  She is energetic, self-motivated and enjoys running on a regular basis, having run the Utica Boilermaker Road Race successfully six times. Ashley is an avid knitter, loves to  read mysteries and appreciates the greater ease of travel a guide dog provides.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Mikey’s a good boy. He’s very smart – a good working dog. He’s also a very loving dog and enjoys cuddling.  He’s made friends with my retired guide, Ella and pet bunny Iris. Once the harness comes off, he’s very exuberant and loves to run in the yard and have fun.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I was attracted to Guiding Eyes upon hearing about their training program options.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “I can travel safely with a guide dog and it supports my independence. Mikey is a fast walker, which is great, because he is helping me get places at a more normal speed.”

Were there any training highlights?  “I was pleased at how Mikey learned my routes so quickly. He only needed to be shown once or twice and knew when to warn me as we approached broken sidewalks that could put me in danger.  We practiced going to the bus stops, bank and coffee shop and he identified targets, not only on the way there, but on the return route as well.”

Congratulations to Mikey’s Puppy Raisers, The Anglace Family!

Graduate Ken and guide dog PebblesGraduate Team:   Kenneth and Pebbles
About the Team:  Pebbles, a female yellow lab, is Ken’s 3rd Guiding Eyes dog
Hometown:   Sunset Beach, North Carolina

Ken is a retired draftsman, living in a coastal community in southern North Carolina. He has been a Guiding Eyes guide dog user for almost 20 years. Over the years, Ken enjoyed golfing, collecting coins and boating on Chesapeake Bay. He and Pebbles take regular walks around his local neighborhood or go on outings with his wife to restaurants or shopping.

How would you describe your guide dog? “She fits right in! We’ve taken walks, done errands and she’s doing very well. Pebbles is friendly and curious about her surroundings, but very attentive and loyal to me. She’s very astute and precise when given a command.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I first came to Guiding Eyes about 20 years ago. Through recommendation and research, I felt this was the place for me. I appreciate Guiding Eyes’ efforts to provide me with Pebbles through the Home Training program. With each of my three dogs it’s been a good experience  –  good support and good instructors.

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “It has had a great impact on me. It’s given me the opportunity to move around with a sense of independence and without the benefit of someone’s arm. Also, the sense of responsibility for the dog is part of the bonding experience. I wouldn’t be without one. I’m fortunate and I’m blessed, and Guiding Eyes is a big part of that.”

Were there any training highlights? “I found Pebbles to be a quick learner and so smart. We’ve bonded quite well and so quickly. I felt early on she’s going to work out well for me.”

Congratulations to Pebble’s Puppy Raiser, Janet Newcity!

Graduate Team:  Robert and Amore
About the Team:  Amore, a female yellow lab, is Robert’s 3rd Guiding Eyes dog
Hometown:  Plainville, Connecticut

Rob is a self-employed massage therapist who likes to travel, meet friends for lunch and take recreational walks with his guide dog.  He enjoys the independence and freedom of using a guide dog and the benefit of smoother, faster travel.

How would you describe your guide dog? “It was clear right away that Amore is very smart. She’s a good worker, but also a sweet and loving dog that likes to give kisses.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes?  “I received my other guide dogs from here and was really happy with them, and all that Guiding Eyes has done for me. I received great support and the trainers are awesome. They provide the knowledge needed for becoming a successful team.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “Having guide dogs has made an impact in so many ways, but mostly it’s about the independence. They’ve enabled me to do the things I want to do in life.  Amore and I just returned from a trip to Boston and she did really well. Having a guide dog has made it possible for me to travel to many different cities.”

Were there any training highlights? “We were training in a department store when I discovered she has a really good pull. I was a bit surprised, but I really liked it. My trainer asked me, how does that make you feel? and my answer was, Empowered!

Congratulations to Amore’s Puppy Raisers, Jonathan & Gemma Carter!