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August 2018 Graduating Class

Congratulations to our August 2018 graduating class!

The Woman’s Club of Danbury/New Fairfield is proud to be a sponsor of this wonderful event. Congratulations to the new guide dog teams on your graduation and best wishes as you move forward. — Woman’s Club of Danbury/New FairfieldCongratulations on this your graduation day. We wish you the best as you begin a wonderful and independent life. — Pat and Patrick Buckley

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

Watch this month’s graduation live

Residential Graduates:

  • Bob & Qualli
  • Kaley & Anakin
  • Kathleen & Truffle
  • Katie & Polo
  • Linda Kay & Murphy
  • Mac & Kobe
  • Maddie & Fritz
  • Maryann & Uno
  • Nicky & Neon
  • Rob & Toby

Home Training Graduates:

  • Briley & Harper
  • David & Dottie
  • Jackie & Wilbur
  • Matthew & Scout

Many thanks to our Training Staff:

  • Class Supervisor: Kathryn Poallo
  • Class Instructors: Laurel Sheets, Louise Thompson & Woody Curry
  • Instructor Assistant: Ricardo Mirville
  • Home Training Instructors: James Gardner, Chrissy Vetrano, Jessy DiNapoli & Michael Goehring

Meet the Residential Training Graduates

August 2018 graduates Bob and Qualli
Bob and Qualli

Graduate Team: Bob & Qualli
About Qualli: Qualli, a female black Lab, is Bob’s second guide dog (his first guide dog was yellow Lab Carmen, who is now retired as a pet)
Hometown: Lexington, South Carolina

Bob, a retired pastor who returned to Guiding Eyes for his second guide dog, leads a very active life in Lexington, South Carolina, where he visits hospitals and nursing homes and conducts regular bible studies. Though his first guide dog, Carmen, has quite a different personality than Qualli, he is looking forward to the freedom of walking through the community with his new partner.

How would you describe Qualli? “She’s a live wire! She’s energetic and loving at the same time. She believes in French kissing. My first dog, Carmen, was the most deferential creature I’ve ever known; Qualli is the opposite – she says ‘me first!’”
Why did you decide to get a guide dog? “I had a student who had a Guiding Eyes dog who was so well behaved, and she suggested I get a guide dog. I thought because I was retired I didn’t need a dog to get to work or anything, but once I got Carmen we ended up averaging about four miles per day, so we were pretty active! I’m 79 years old now, so Qualli and I will have a much quieter life.”
What are you looking forward to about returning home? “I’m looking forward to daily walks through the community and being free to go when I want to.”
Any training highlights? “The energy of my instructor, Laurel. She’s a live wire too! She’s a person with great interest in life and energy for life. She perks me up in my old age. She’s like a granddaughter who’s also my teacher.”
How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “It has made me more confident in approaching the senior years of life; I’m not parked on the sidelines somewhere.”
What would you say to someone thinking about getting a guide dog? “Think long and hard and then go straight forward. I don’t have any regrets.”
How do you feel about Guiding Eyes? “Across the board, they are generous people who want to help any way they can – from the office to the custodians and everywhere in between.”

Congratulations to Qualli’s puppy raisers, the Treaster Family!

August 2018 graduates Kaley and Anakin
Kaley and Anakin

Graduate Team: Kaley & Anakin
About Anakin: Anakin, a black male Lab, is Kaley’s first guide dog
Hometown: Tallahassee, Florida

Kaley, a recent college graduate with a master’s degree in literature from Florida State University, looks forward to starting a new chapter of her life with Anakin by her side. She enjoys traveling – having been to Spain, Costa Rica, and now, New York – and is excited to bring her new guide dog with her on upcoming adventures.

How would you describe Anakin? “Anakin is so eager to work. He gets excited whenever he sees his harness. He’s very focused, motivated, and always wants to keep going. I’m always amazed by how smart guide dogs are. But on his down time, Anakin is very kissy and lovey. He likes to follow me around.”
Why did you decide to get a guide dog? “I always wanted a guide dog, it was just finding the right time to get one. I was in college, so I had been studying abroad and taking classes. Now I finally have the time to keep a dog working and active.”
What are you looking forward to about returning home? “I just finished my master’s degree, so I am starting to look for a job and even have a few interviews lined up. I’m excited to start a new job and this new chapter in my life with Anakin. He gives me greater independence.”
Any training highlights? “A highlight would be our first traffic check. A car was turning towards us and Anakin just stopped. It’s incredible. All I could think was, ‘this dog just essentially saved my life.’”
How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “Ease and fluidity of motion. Having a guide dog gives me a feeling of being able to move through a bustling space with grace and ease. It’s not as easy with a white cane. There are also stigmas around having a white cane and more ignorance. It’s exciting for people to see guide dogs. They make blindness more approachable and make people more comfortable about asking questions.”
What would you say to someone considering a guide dog? “Consider whether you have the time and dedication for a dog, because they become a member of your family.” 
How do you feel about Guiding Eyes? “It’s been so smooth here. I love the transparency behind the training; the trainers always tell us why we’re doing things a certain way and how your dog is thinking and navigating. Their dedication is astounding, and the organization’s mission is great.”

Congratulations to Anakin’s puppy raiser, Nakita Bozinoski!

August 2018 graduates Kathleen and Truffle
Kathleen and Truffle

Graduate Team: Kathleen & Truffle
About Truffle: Truffle is a female black Lab and Kathleen’s first guide dog
Hometown: Omaha, Nebraska

While Kathleen is new to working with a guide dog, she’s no stranger to seeing them in action. In fact, she was convinced it was time to get a guide dog after meeting a Guiding Eyes graduate and her guide, Gardenia, at a recent conference and seeing the potential impact the partnership could have.

How would you describe Truffle? “She’s very loving and very street smart. She is loving and always by my side. She makes me happy and feel more confident about myself. I’m a little shy and she’s made me more outgoing.”
Why did you decide to get a guide dog? “I had been thinking about getting a guide dog for five or six years, and went to the American Council of the Blind convention and met someone who has a Guiding Eyes dog. She and her dog were just meant for each other, and she had so many good things to say about this school. It was meeting her and seeing what actually goes into the relationship that made me say ‘it’s time.’”
What are you looking forward to about returning home? “Being able to walk normally. And I’m just excited to have her in my life. I think it has made me more outgoing. I’m looking forward to introducing her to people, letting them know what she’s doing for me, how she’s helping me. Just getting around every day and not having to depend on the cane, which I’m not really fond of.”
Any training highlights? “My instructor is Woody, and I love her teaching style. She’s very personable and keeps everything simple and straightforward. If Woody sees me doing something that needs correcting, she’ll stop and take her time explaining to me.”
How will having a guide dog impact your life? “With Truffle, I know I have someone by my side – the two of us are going to be one. With her by my side I feel like I could conquer the world.”
What would you say to someone considering getting a guide dog? “You need to make sure that it fits into your life – that you have time for the dog. It’s the best experience I’ve had in quite some time. I think it has to be right for you, but it’s the best decision that I’ve made.”
How do you feel about Guiding Eyes? “The people around here are so friendly and outgoing. They’re so kind and considerate; anybody will help you with anything you need. Guiding Eyes is like a different world. It just makes me speechless.”

Congratulations to Truffle’s puppy raisers, Elaine Trujillo and the Cromwell-Reed Family!

August 2018 graduates Katie and Polo
Katie and Polo

Graduate Team: Katie & Polo
About Polo: Polo is a black male Lab and Katie’s first guide dog
Hometown: Bloomington, Minnesota

After just three weeks of training at Guiding Eyes, Katie, an avid animal lover, fondly describes her new guide dog Polo as “completing” her. Residing in a bustling suburb of Minneapolis, she looks forward to commuting more independently to her job as an HR coordinator and the several organizations where she volunteers. Katie is also eager to get home and introduce Polo to her three-year-old adopted Lab-mix.

How would you describe Polo? “Polo loves to lick and gives kisses; he’s very affectionate. He’s a cuddler at heart.”
Why did you decide to get a guide dog? “It’s only been about a year since I started losing my sight. The moment I was told I couldn’t drive anymore, that’s when I said I was getting a guide dog. I travel a lot and am very independent, so it’s nice to have another companion there to help me and be there with me on all my adventures.”
What are you looking forward to about returning home? “I can’t wait until he goes to the theatre with me; his first show will be Hamilton. I’m excited because I know people will have questions, so I will be able to educate others on what it’s like to have a guide dog. I also have two jobs and will be able to commute more independently and take lots of buses. I live in a suburb of Minneapolis, so training with Polo here in White Plains is similar to what it will be like at home. It’s been very helpful.”
Any training highlights? “Getting Polo was the greatest day ever. Also, it instantly felt like family being around the other people here and the trainers. We all work together and everybody helps each other out; the students being retrained will give us advice. We’re all in the same boat.”
How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “Polo has already completed me. It’s amazing to me that when I walk down the street, I am no longer afraid of going places or traveling on my own. I have him and I know he’s there to protect me. Today, for example, a car was turning towards us and Polo immediately stopped. It’s a moment of, ‘Oh my gosh, this dog is here to make sure I’m safe.’ It’s having that companionship.”
What would you say to someone considering a guide dog? “Anyone who is thinking of getting a guide dog needs to remember it’s still a dog. You need to make sure the dog is a priority; it’s not just a cane that you can store away. Whether the weather is cold or hot, you need to make sure you can exercise your dog. And, know that you will fall in love with them.”
How do you feel about Guiding Eyes? “It’s amazing. I chose this school over others because there is a lot of follow up after you graduate. It’s great to know that there will be people who check in on you. Even if you move, they will come out and help you navigate the new area. You can see the passion of the organization through the people who work there — the trainers, kitchen staff, and everyone I’ve met. It’s not just a job for them. It’s a passion. They’re not in it just for the paycheck. They care about what they’re doing.”

Congratulations to Polo’s puppy raiser, Paul Huebner!

August 2018 graduates Linda and Murphy
Linda and Murphy

Graduate Team: Linda Kay & Murphy
About Murphy: Murphy, a male yellow Lab, is Linda Kay’s second guide dog
Hometown: Tacoma, Washington

“With a guide dog, the dark has become light.” That’s how Linda Kay sums up her relationship with her new guide dog Murphy (a.k.a. “Mr. Business”), and with his predecessor, German Shepherd Campbell (a.k.a. “Mr. Handsome”). When she met Murphy on “dog day,” Linda says her “heart and soul had been healed from having said goodbye to Campbell.”

How would you describe Murphy? “I was told by Louise, Murphy’s trainer and my instructor, that he has made her laugh every single day that she has had him, and he has followed suit with me! He is very funny and comical. It’s all about Murphy when he’s with his toys, but when he puts the harness on he is ‘Mr. Business.’ He is all about the business of keeping me safe.”
Why did you decide to get a guide dog? “I needed more independence. Retiring ‘Slim,’ my tall skinny walking partner, otherwise known as my white cane, was just an incredible feeling of independence. I’m able to walk with so much more confidence. Walking in darkness is a very scary thing. With a guide dog, the dark has become light.”
What are you looking forward to about returning home? “I’m looking forward to life going back to normal. I do a lot of volunteer work and work at my church. I am a high-ranking belt in karate (two more belts until black, and I’ve even taught Murphy to bow!). I live a very busy life and a very giving life. I’m very active in my blind knitting group. We knit afghans for the vets, hats for the homeless, and several other projects for local organizations.”
Any training highlights? “Blindfold training has been a highlight, as my vision in my left eye is going to go in the blink of an eye. I embraced the blindfold experience with confidence and prayed my way through that walk. I rely on God for my strength and guidance. My vision has declined so quickly that I want to be prepared – and with Murphy I am.”
How has having a guide dog impacted you? “I don’t feel like I’m walking down the sidewalk with my cane and a big target on my back. Walking with a guide dog the target shrinks a little bit.”
What would you say to someone considering getting a guide dog? “Get ready to step up your independence. Get ready to be more confident in your daily journey. Your cane misses so much, but your dog misses nothing. Get ready for quite the ride!”
How do you feel about Guiding Eyes? “Guiding Eyes is the most amazing organization – from the administrative staff to the kitchen staff to the volunteers to the trainers. And of course, Guiding Eyes wouldn’t be Guiding Eyes without the phenomenal puppy raisers.”

Congratulations to Murphy’s puppy raisers, Maddy and John Crabtree!

August 2018 graduates Mac and Kobe
Mac and Kobe

Graduate Team: Mac & Kobe
About Kobe: Kobe, a male black Lab, is Mac’s first guide dog
Hometown: Bahamas and Orlando, Florida

“I’m just a lucky 73-year-old retired man that’s getting a second chance at my life and independence.” A regular traveler who’s new to working with a guide dog, Mac is looking forward to having Kobe by his side as he travels throughout the US, Caribbean, Canada, and beyond. “We’re going to have some fun.”

How would you describe Kobe? “Kobe is a very intelligent dog with a tendency to be a little playful. But once you give him the order, he goes back to his intelligent self. He’s a very loving dog who loves affection; he loves being snuggled and hugged.”
Why did you decide to get a guide dog? “I have no sight in my right eye, low vision in my left, and am losing my peripheral vision. My doctors suggested that I get a guide dog so that if the deterioration continues, I’ll already be comfortable getting around, as I travel quite a bit.”
What are you looking forward to about returning home? “What I’m looking forward to is acclimating him to my house in Orlando, and then at the end of the month I’m going to Nassau for a family reunion where he’ll get to meet my family and friends. He’s very sociable, and all of my children, who live in the Bahamas, are dog lovers.”
Any training highlights? “My trainer, Woody, has a way of explaining things in common sense. She doesn’t make things complicated. She is professional and accommodating, and she’s taught me to work with Kobe, especially on my problems with depth perception. I’ve noticed that I’m more comfortable with him now, and I allow Kobe to tell me where I am. I only learned that thanks to her.”
How will having a guide dog impact your life? “It has already! It’s going to allow me to be more independent when I go out and not have to depend on others to take me from point to point. I’m confident walking with him.”
What would you say to someone considering getting a guide dog? “If you have an opportunity to get a guide dog, get the dog. The dogs adapt to you more than you adapting to them. Even though Kobe is still in love with , we get along beautifully. Be open and honest with yourself and with the dog; it’s going to save you a lot of anticipation and anxiety.”
How do you feel about Guiding Eyes? “I’m blown away by the organization, the patience of the instructors, and the camaraderie of the people here. We’re all in the same position, and we’re not looked at here as we’re looked at out in public life. I was most impressed by the teaching methods that Guiding Eyes uses to bring the best out of the dog as well as the student.”

Congrats to Kobe’s puppy raiser, Avery Proctor!

August 2018 graduates Maddie and Fritz
Maddie and Fritz

Graduate Team: Maddie & Fritz
About Fritz: A male yellow Lab, Fritz is Maddie’s first guide dog
Hometown: Advance, North Carolina

A busy high school senior, Maddie is looking forward to having her new guide dog Fritz accompany her to theater practice, music lessons, and eventually, to college, where she plans to study music education or music therapy.

How would you describe Fritz? “He’s my first guide dog and even though he’s super calm, he can be the most hyper dog. He loves to sleep and is very friendly.”
Why did you decide to get a guide dog? “I went to a camp in Michigan where we could walk with a dog for a day, and I absolutely loved it. I had a family member who came to Guiding Eyes before, and I’d heard amazing, amazing things, so I applied!”
What are you most looking forward to about returning home? “The independence of walking around school. I’ll be a senior in high school, and it’s going to be so much easier getting around and feeling confident.”
Any training highlights? “Bonding with my dog and seeing how they love to work for you. It’s a joy every day to wake up with him.”
How will having a guide dog impact your life? “It gives me more independence and more confidence, and it’s going to take more responsibility too. Plus the friendship I’ll have with him will just be amazing.”
What I would say to someone considering a guide dog: “Don’t hesitate – just do it and see what happens. In my case I absolutely loved it. I’m really glad I didn’t wait until I was older.”
How do you feel about Guiding Eyes? “Everybody here is so nice and polite. I’ve never met a person who wasn’t. They take care of you like you’re family!”

Congrats to Fritz’s puppy raisers, Sandy Shaw and Bethany Reinhardt!

August 2018 graduates Maryann and Uno
Maryann and Uno

Graduate Team: Maryann & Uno
About Uno: Uno is a black male Lab and Maryann’s sixth guide dog from Guiding Eyes
Hometown: Boulder, Colorado

Maryann values her title as Distinguished Toastmaster as highly as she values her degrees in business administration and hospitality management. It was 30 years ago this month that she received her first Guiding Eyes guide, and now she looks forward to bringing her sixth guide dog, Uno, home to partake in her Toastmasters work. “There will be speeches with him and there will be speeches about him. He’ll be taking part in competitions with me.”

How would you describe Uno? “Uno is a very social, fun-loving dog who also takes his work seriously. He enjoys what he does and enjoys the fun we both get out of it. He takes his playtime very seriously, too. He likes to bring me toys and have me play tug with him.”
What are you looking forward to about returning home? “It’s been nine years since I last had a dog. When my last guide retired, I thought I was going to go right back into class, but it just didn’t feel right at the moment. I’ve since gone back to college and started a career in hotel work. I feel like I’ve been working a long time to get to this point, and getting Uno is the starting point for a lot of good things to come; he is the start to the next phase of my life. I’ll also be starting my Toastmasters work again, so he’ll be tagging along to lots of fun speeches.”
Any training highlights? “There is a magic moment when you can feel your dog bonding with you and becoming attached to you. Every dog has communicated differently with me, so it’s about figuring out Uno’s communication method. I am learning to speak Uno’s language, Uno’s way. I look for those little magic moments. I’ve been doing escalators and stairs for years. But those magic moments are when your dog does something you don’t expect, like targeting a specific pole on a sidewalk that he hasn’t seen for a week.”
How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “When I applied to Guiding Eyes again, there was a question on the application that asked, ‘why are you applying for a guide dog?’ I wanted to travel faster and go to more places. Having a guide dog gives me excuses to go out and do things that I would otherwise skip. Rather than just getting a ride home from work, I’ll take a bus or walk a mile instead. Yes, I did a lot of things with a cane, but it’s more fun doing them with a dog. Life is easier and there are lots of adventures to go on together.”
How do you feel about Guiding Eyes? “There isn’t any reason for me to go anywhere else because the Guiding Eyes process is already so polished. I am fortunate to have had Woody train my dog because she knows Uno incredibly well. She knows how to read him, how he responds to certain situations, and how he likes to play. She thinks like I do when it comes to training dogs and that is a big plus for me.”

Congratulations to Uno’s puppy raisers, the Reynolds Family!

August 2018 graduates Nicky and Neon
Nicky and Neon

Graduate Team: Nicky & Neon
About Neon: Neon, a female black Lab, is Nicky’s fourth guide dog from Guiding Eyes
Hometown: Ridgefield, Minnesota

Now matched with her fourth guide dog, Nicky knows a thing or two about working with guide dogs. She’s traveled to Guiding Eyes from Minnesota to meet her new partner Neon, calling the school is her “one and only.” Though she describes herself as a very confident cane traveler, Nicky loves the confidence, speed, and motivation that comes with working with a guide dog.

How would you describe Neon? “She’s very excited but very gentle. She’s a conscientious worker who’s very attuned to what’s going on around her. She is just sweet and similar to my last guide dog, Eleni.”
Why did you decide to get a guide dog? “Way back in 1996, I was trying to cross this very busy intersection in Minneapolis which forked off, and there was no way I could do it confidently with a cane. Once I got a dog, it was still challenging but I knew I could do it. I chose this school because I had a friend who had a Guiding Eyes dog and I loved how they worked together.”
What are you looking forward to about returning home? “Being able to walk how I want to. Neon has a good pace for me. I look forward to learning the routes I need to learn. I’d like to learn how to take the buses again and maybe even light rail.”
Any training highlights? “I never thought I’d say this, but I’m actually liking targeting! Neon gets so excited for those Charlee Bears. Right now we’re working on targeting some of the cubes upstairs to get her used to targeting cubes when I get to work.”
How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “I’m a good cane traveler, but I can walk even more confidently with a dog. There are places where I couldn’t keep up with a cane, if people are in front of me. A dog can just see them and go. It’s a lot faster to walk with a dog, and I’m more motivated to get outside.”
What would you say to someone considering getting a guide dog? “I would first of all extoll the benefits of a guide dog! But just know that your guide dog is going to be with you 24/7 for the most part, so you have to be ready to take him out in all weather – even when you don’t want to get up in the middle of the night or when it’s 40 below!”
How do you feel about Guiding Eyes? “It’s my one and only. I would recommend Guiding Eyes because I love the class size and the student to instructor ratio. I love the training – they are very consistent but gentle. They’re not going to just turn out mediocre teams; they turn out really good teams.”

Congrats to Neon’s puppy raisers, the Nelson Family!

August 2018 graduates Rob and Toby
Rob and Toby

Graduate Team: Rob & Toby
About Toby: Toby, a male black Lab, is Rob’s second guide dog; his first, O’Rourke, is now retired
Hometown: Plainville, Connecticut

“180 degrees.” That’s how Rob describes the impact of a guide dog on his life. Now matched with his second guide dog, Rob has experienced the power of a guide dog to allow him to be more adventurous and free.

How would you describe Toby? “He is mischievous, but he does great work. He’s very loving. He’s a very good boy. It took us about five minutes to bond.”
Why did you decide to get a guide dog? “My balance is horrible, so walking with a cane is not the easiest thing in the world. A guide dog gives me great stability. O’Rourke really was not trained for that, but he stepped up to the plate when he realized that my balance was going, and Toby does a great job too.”
What are you most looking forward to about returning home? “I am looking forward to my two dogs meeting. I think they are going to be best friends (though O’Rourke may be a little bent out of shape for a while!). And I’m looking forward to getting back to my life.”
Any training highlights? “The entire experience. Everybody at Guiding Eyes is absolutely fantastic; you couldn’t ask for a better crew. Their flexibility is awesome — whether with construction going on at the school, or the adaptation to my needs and other people’s needs.”
How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “It totally changed it. 180 degrees. I can go anywhere I want to. With O’Rourke, I’ve been to a dozen different cities, from Dallas to LA to Orlando. I would not have felt comfortable enough with a cane to do that. It gives me the freedom to be more adventurous.”
What would you say to someone considering getting a guide dog? “There’s only one place to go! I would strongly and completely recommend Guiding Eyes, and I always do. In my opinion, they put out absolutely awesome dogs. They take the time to polish them.”
How do you feel about Guiding Eyes? “I honestly can’t say enough about them. They’re tough as nails but sweet as pie. They take the job very seriously and make sure that the team is going to work.”

Congratulations to Toby’s puppy raisers, Kathleen and Ray Czerwinski!

Meet the Home Training Graduates

August 2018 graduate David sits on a couch and poses for a photo with guide dog Dottie
David and Dottie

Graduate Team: David & Dottie
About Dottie: Dottie, a black female Lab, is David’s eighth Guiding Eyes guide
Hometown: Port Richey, Florida

When asked about Guiding Eyes for the Blind, David will speak highly of the organization that has provided him with guide dogs for the last 40 years. He is appreciative that the Home Training Program enabled him to train with his eighth guide dog, Dottie, in the comfort of his own home. Now a retired business owner, he looks to remain active in his church with his wife and Dottie by his side.

How would you describe Dottie? “She is excellent. Dottie is wonderful about understanding what I need, and communicates to me about what she needs. She is so cooperative and moderates her pace depending on how I’m walking that day. She is also very social which, for my lifestyle, is just perfect. She’s great in a lot of different ways.”
Why did you decide to get a guide dog? “I received my first dog back in 1979 when I was 26 years old. I was living in Philly and was working with someone who had a guide dog. We went out one afternoon to McDonald’s and I was so impressed with how efficiently he traveled. I picked up the phone that day and called Guiding Eyes.”
What are you looking forward to about working with Dottie? “It is really difficult to travel around my neighborhood because all of the curbs are rounded and there are no sidewalks. Dottie helps me navigate around much easier.”
Any training highlights? “I really enjoyed the ability to work and train in the areas I’ll be frequenting often. That was a real plus. If there was an issue that arose, we were able to tackle it directly in the location that I might be visiting tomorrow, next week, or even next month. I also enjoyed being able to set my training schedule based on how I was feeling that day.”
How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “A guide dog just fits. Every time you get one, the dog fits your lifestyle. When I lived in Pittsburgh, I was traveling through the city and large crowds; my guide dog at the time was perfect for that. Now that I am retired, Dottie does just what the others did: she fits my lifestyle. Independence and efficiency are the greatest assets to having a guide dog.”
What would you say to someone considering a guide dog? “They are the most difficult mobility aid to use, so if you’re considering getting one, make sure that you have good O&M skills first. You have to already be a good traveler.”
How do you feel about Guiding Eyes? “I have always felt that Guiding Eyes does things on an individual level. There is no such thing as a ‘cookie cutter’ approach there. Whatever someone needs in a particular class, Guiding Eyes always makes it happen. They have an unspoken policy of finding a need and filling it, and that’s what Guiding Eyes has done for me over the last 40 years. I’m so grateful that the Home Training Program is a provision that exists now. Otherwise – I’m not able to travel to the New York campus because of my health and age – I wouldn’t have Dottie and I’d be finished with guide dog travel.”

Congrats to Dottie’s puppy raisers, the William B. Rector III Family!

2018 graduate Jackie poses for a photo with guide dog Wilbur
Jackie and Wilbur

Graduate Team: Jackie & Wilbur
About Wilbur: Wilbur, a male yellow Lab, is Jackie’s second guide dog, and first from Guiding Eyes
Hometown: Almont, Michigan

“The emotional support and love I receive from Wilbur has made everything so much smoother.” For Jackie, being paired with Wilbur meant more than gaining her independence back. She loves the emotional connection and companionship that he also provides her during this time. A graduate of the Home Training program, Jackie is grateful for how tailored the program was around her specific needs.

How would you describe Wilbur? “Wilbur is a lovable ham. He wants to be pet and wants to be a lap dog. We’re thinking about going out and buying a loveseat so he can sit next to us on the couch. He craves affection and has a beautiful personality.”

Why did you decide to get a guide dog? “I have been slowly losing my eyesight. I have some limited sight still, but I was feeling too dependent on everyone else just to do things like go get my mail. I live in a small town, so a guide dog would give me the independence I needed.”

What are you looking forward to about working with Wilbur? “Every day is an experience. He is a joy to be with and we couldn’t be a better match. Things will be pretty routine for the next few months, but we’re taking a family trip up north together and I’m looking forward to that.”

Any training highlights? “I enjoyed all of it. My trainer, Jim, was very easy to get along with. I have a lot going on medically at the moment, so we went to a lot of doctor offices to train. Jim was willing to fit my needs into the training. It’s exactly what I needed, and it worked well. The program was really personalized.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “It’s not just the work Wilbur does for me, but also having him around on the days that I don’t feel well. He helps motivate me when I don’t feel like getting up.  I also love to just sit and pet him; I love knowing he’s there for me and loves me.”

 What would you say to someone considering a guide dog? “The assistance and love a guide dog gives you is well worth it. If I walk with a human guide or a white cane, I am always looking down. But I find that if I’m walking with a guide dog, I look up and forward. I walk with confidence knowing the dog will take care of me. I’m so impressed with how well Wilbur is trained to take care of me.”

How do you feel about Guiding Eyes? “They have been so understanding. When I recently found out about my medical condition, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get a guide dog anymore. But when I was accepted to Guiding Eyes, I was so excited. The emotional support and love I receive from Wilbur has made everything so much smoother. And I can’t say enough about how great Jim was. Everyone I have spoken with at Guiding Eyes has been really nice to me.”

Congrats to Wilbur’s puppy raiser, Trinity Huginski!

2018 graduate Matthew sits at his favorite coffee shop with guide dog Scout by his side
Matthew and Scout at their local coffee shop

Graduate Team: Matthew & Scout
About Scout: Scout is a black male Lab and Matthew’s third guide dog from Guiding Eyes
Hometown: Rochester, New York

During his free time, Matthew likes to stay busy taking voice lessons and singing in a few choirs. But now paired with his third Guiding Eyes guide dog, Scout, he is especially looking forward to taking daily walks to his favorite coffee shop together. “Scout will be a hit,” he says. “I will have to try keeping him away from all those delicious crumbs as best as possible.”

How would you describe Scout? “I’ve been happy with all of my previous guide dogs from Guiding Eyes, but Scout is very eager to please. He has a lot of spunk in him and a lot of pep in his step!”

Why did you decide to get a guide dog? “I had been a cane traveler for a while. I wanted to see what the advantages of having a guide dog would be over being out on my own with a white cane. In addition to having no vision, I have some memory issues, so I was hoping having a guide dog would also help me with that. If I train my dog to know one of my usual routes, he could help me get where I need to if I get a little off track; I’ve found that to be true with all three of my dogs.”

What are you looking forward to about working with Scout? “I like the pace he travels at. I enjoy being able to get around quickly. We’re going through a rainy spell in Rochester right now, so I like being able to get in and out of it as quickly as possible. Scout will also be a hit at my favorite coffee shop. The area I live in is fun; there are lots of places and small shops to visit. As long as Scout doesn’t wag his tail too much in the shops and knock anything over, I think we’ll be okay.” 

Any training highlights? “My trainer, Jessy, and I worked really well together. She was extremely patient with me. Since my last dog, Khaki, I have had a few surgeries, so I lost a bit of confidence in my ability to work with a dog. Jessy was patient and encouraging; it was reassuring and very helpful.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “Having a guide dog has made me a happier person. If nothing else, it has given me someone to talk to when no one else is around. I can always say, ‘let’s go for a walk!’ or go out and do something with him. They have given me more confidence and the ability to do more.”

What would you say to someone considering a guide dog? “I would highly recommend it. It’s a freeing experience. A guide dog gives you one more degree of mobility over using just a cane. There are responsibilities that come with a dog, but they’re a whole lot more fun than a cane.”

How do you feel about Guiding Eyes? “They have been fantastic. Other schools couldn’t understand the challenges I have in addition to being blind, but Guiding Eyes has been so patient with me and accommodating with everything I need.” 

Congrats to Scout’s puppy raisers, Jared Feingold and Family!