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August 2019 Graduating Class

Congratulations to our August 2019 Graduating Class!

“In memory of our favorite puppy raiser, Colleen Schain, beloved wife and friend.”

— Marc Schain & Dr. Orman Leighton

“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 Fairfield

“Congratulations to team Nolan! May you have many safe and happy adventures together. Thank you to Nolan’s puppy raiser, Donna Lynd, and her family for their commitment to the Guiding Eyes mission!”

— Central New York Puppy Raising Region

“We are excited to learn that Rebekah and Regal have joined the Guiding Eyes team. We wish them good fortune and a long career with Guiding Eyes.”

— Barbara and Dave Katz

“Congratulations to the August 2019 graduating class and guide dog teams, David and Tessi, and Rhonda and Tatum, from Bob Rollmann and Cindy Sullivan, fosters for proud dad GEB Ingot.  Congratulations, also, to Tatum’s puppy raiser, Alex Tucker!” 

— Cindy Sullivan and Bob Rollmann

Residential Graduates:

Anna and Drummer
Caitlyn and Aladdin
Christopher and Jones
David and Tessi
James and Vern
Karalyn and Jenkins
Kimberly and Sparrow
Lawrence and Nolan
Marvin and Jude
Pamela and Blossom
Rhonda and Tatum

Home Training Graduate:

Jody and Lacey
John and Darcy

Many thanks to our Training Staff:

Class Supervisor:  Stephanie Koret
Instructor:  Shannon McGee
Instructor:  Louise Thompson
Action Instructor:  Miranda Beckmann
Specialized Training: Susan Kroha
Instructor Assistant:  Amy Sander
Apprentice Under Blindfold:  Erin Lukacovic
Home Training: Melinda Angstrom

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

Meet the Residential Training Graduates

Anna and guide dog Drummer, a black lab in harness.

Graduate Team:   Anna and Drummer
About the Team:   Drummer, a male black Lab, is Anna’s 3rd Guiding Eyes dog
Hometown: LaSalle, Quebec, Canada

Anna comes to us from the city of Montreal and looks forward to taking her new guide dog, Drummer, back home to learn his new routes. She is an animal lover and will soon be introducing Drummer to the cats waiting back home. Anna is married, participates in religious volunteering, has an interest in plants and growing things and in her spare time enjoys knitting projects.

How would you describe your guide dog?  “I would describe Drummer as a gentle giant. He’s very calm and laid back – very sweet. During training he learns things very quickly – he’s like ‘I got this.’ I’m excited to show him his new routes. I love introducing him and telling people this is my dog. I’m just excited to start our new life together.” 

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes?  “Originally my O&M instructor told me about Guiding Eyes, but I keep coming back because it’s like a family. Everyone’s so sweet and they’ll do anything to help. I like that they offer different types of programs, like the Specialized Training. I appreciate that their main focus is on visually impaired people, but I appreciate even more that they think of others. I think that’s a very kind thing to do.  I just love Guiding Eyes.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life?  “I’m married and have great family and friends, yet I find blindness can sometimes be a lonely and isolating thing. It’s a hard thing to explain, but when you have your guide dog next to you, not only do they give you independence – you know, that feeling of grab that harness and go – they are also a being that has to do with your blindness, so you’re not alone in this. It’s the independence, the company; it’s everything.  I remember this quote from Helen Keller: ‘Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.’ I think her description was great.”

Were there any training highlights?  “He’s a really good boy. When we’re going somewhere, he gets very excited. It’s really cute. When I put the harness on, he grabs the leash with his teeth and just moves his head towards the door like, Let’s go, Mommy! Look, the door! Also, I had to realize he has long legs, so when I ask him to sit or lay down when we’re doing obedience, it can take him a second. He’s like, hang on, it takes me a second with these big ol’ legs!”

Congratulations to Dummer’s Puppy Raisers, Alex and Leslie McIntyre!

Caitlyn and Aladdin, a yellow lab guide dog in harness.Graduate Team:   Caitlyn and Aladdin
About the Team:  Aladdin, a male yellow Lab, is Caitlyn’s 1st guide dog
Hometown: Belleville, Arkansas

Caitlyn is entering her sophomore year of college, majoring in creative writing with big dreams of becoming a fantasy writer. As one might guess, her favorite activities are reading and writing. She also enjoys quilting, beadwork and jewelry making, creating interesting necklaces and bracelets. She’s pleased to have a dog that shares his name with a Disney prince!

How would you describe your guide dog? “Aladdin is adorable and he knows it. In harness, he’s a great guide; I couldn’t ask for a dog with a better pace for me. When he gets up in the morning he’s ready to go! Out of harness he’s very energetic and spunky and loves to play with toys.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? I’ve wanted a guide dog forever because of the speed and the smoothness of travel it would give me. I applied to several different schools, but the response from Guiding Eyes was amazing. People were very nice and respectful.  Also, I have two good friends that graduated from here, so I knew it’s where I wanted to go.”

What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog? “I can’t wait to get him on the university campus. It will be way easier to navigate to classes because he helps me walk more gracefully. I won’t have to hit every bench and garbage can along the way!  And I can’t wait for my parents to meet him.”

Were there any training highlights?   He’s done everything really, really well. The first time we walked together it was amazing. It was everything I’d hoped for. The training experience has been super awesome.”

Congratulations to Aladdin’s Puppy Raisers, The Corrigan Family!

Chris and Jones, a yellow lab guide dog in harness.Graduate Team: Christopher and Jones
About the Team:  Jones, a male yellow Lab, is Chris’ 1st guide dog
Hometown: Snellville, GA

Chris is looking forward to getting back into life with his first guide dog, Jones, by his side. Chris plans on pursuing an undergraduate degree in psychology in two years followed by a Master’s in certified Rehabilitation Counseling, so that he can help the blind find work and services. He is interested in learning woodworking and dreams of selling his handmade goods at craft shows to raise money for nonprofits, like Guiding Eyes. “With Jones by my side, who knows what I can do!” 

How would you describe your guide dog? “He’s chill, but very friendly. He knows how to relax and sit still, and when I’m relaxing he’s like, Okay, I’m here. Ready to go. He’s cool, very cool. I’m loving him – they did a great job choosing this dog for me.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I didn’t go into this thinking it was going to be easy. I did my research and applied to three schools. Guiding Eyes reached out first and they were very patient, friendly and professional. I could just hear the kindness in their voices. It’s been a great choice.” 

What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog? “I’m looking forward to introducing him to everybody and teaching him our routes. Do I love the fact that he’s going to be a loving companion? Yes, I love that, but he’ll be guiding me where I need to go; getting me back into a regular schedule. That’s been the main goal. I look forward to getting my life back. It will never be as it was, but I think it’s going to be somehow better.” 

Were there any training highlights? “It’s been like going from a bicycle to a jet engine. Every day is a highlight. Every day is something new. The trainers and everyone involved with this organization have been so professional, so kind, so funny, and enjoyable to be around. The kitchen staff even made me a birthday cake and sang Happy Birthday. Everybody enjoyed it and had fun. I could go on and on and about how much I’ve enjoyed this experience!”

Congratulations to Jones’ Puppy Raisers, Susan and Wayne Cooper!

David and Tessi, a yellow lab guide dog in harness.Graduate Team:  David and Tessi
About the Team:  Tessi, a female yellow Lab, is David’s 1st guide dog.
Hometown: New Smyrna Beach, Florida

David is a veteran of the United States Army and presently serves as the Executive Director of Continuing Education & Outreach at Stetson University in DeLand, Florida. David loves spending time with his wife Lynda, his kids and grandkids, and his pets at home. He found his match in a petite female yellow Lab named Tessi who has a pink heart on her nose. 

How would you describe your guide dog?  “Tessi is a very intelligent and energetic partner. She’s ready to work at any time and gets excited when the harness comes out. She’s very interactive with people and other animals, but when she’s working – she’s working.” 

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “Once I decided that a guide dog might be right for me, I considered several different organizations.  The reputation for providing top dogs and services to anyone in need was my primary attraction to Guiding Eyes.  Stories from previous graduates reaffirmed my desire for a guide dog when traveling, working, and socializing with friends and family.”

What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog?  “I am looking forward to returning home to my wife Lynda who really wants me to pick up the pace on our walks.  Tessi is helping me to walk without fear of falling and as a bonus, I’m walking faster. As a busy higher education professional, I attend meetings, conferences, presentations, and other events where Tessi will assist me in traveling independently.”

Were there any training highlights? “Tessi is really helping me at street crossings. She doesn’t allow me to step out into the street if it’s not safe. My instructor and I trained in CVS earlier this week.  Tessi and I were able to move all around the store without destroying anything. The night walk (where I lose all of my remaining vision) was the moment I truly had 100% trust in my new partner, Tessi.”

Is there anything else you’d like to add?  “I’m just so extremely thankful and really humbled for the opportunity given to me.  The gift I’ve received will change my life and likewise for my fellow classmates.  A heartfelt thank you to the instructors, staff, volunteers, and donors that are paying it forward for the blind community.”

Congratulations to Tessi’s Puppy Raiser, Ellen Grieg! 

James and Vern, a black lab guide dog in harness.Graduate Team:  James and Vern
About the Team: Vern, a male black Lab, is James’ 2nd Guiding Eyes dog. 
Hometown: Clinton, North Carolina

James is a self-described gamer who enjoys playing games on his PS4. He is a huge WWE fan, and with four other wrestling fans, runs a wrestling podcast twice a week. James is an avid sports fan, especially when it comes to basketball and football, following his favorite teams, the Knicks and the Giants. When not running his podcast or being involved in the sports community, James enjoys listening to audiobooks, especially mystery novels. He can’t wait to head home with Vern and watch him learn his new environment. 

How would you describe your guide dog? “Vern is very smart and works great. I definitely see similarities between him and my first guide dog, Alvy. I wouldn’t trade him for the world.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I’ve lived in different places around the country and thought a guide dog would really help me. Having a guide dog has definitely helped me get around town safely.” 

What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog? “I like to go to a lot of places around town, so I’m looking forward to taking Vern to all those places. I’ll enjoy watching him learn the environment around his new home.”

Were there any training highlights? “I love playing fetch with Vern. I don’t even have to call out to him – he immediately brings the ball right back to me. He knows that we’re a pair.”

Congratulations to Vern’s Puppy Raisers, Elizabeth Nakoneczny and Patrick Wilt and Greg Phillips!

Kara and Jenkins, a black lab guide dog in harness.Graduate Team:   Karalyn and Jenkins
About the Team:  Jenkins, a male black Lab, is Kara’s 1st guide dog
Hometown: Arlington, Massachusetts

Kara is employed as an admin and having lived all her life in a bustling Boston suburb, has become a confident city traveler. She is looking forward to returning home with Jenkins, where he will get to know their routes, whether using public transit or walking to the grocery store. Kara really enjoys snowboarding in the winter months. During warmer seasons she loves biking and goes to the rehabilitation center a couple times a week to ride her trike.   

How would you describe your guide dog? “Jenkins is very calm and mild mannered, but when he’s in harness he’s very attentive and focused. When he’s out of harness he enjoys getting goofy during playtime.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “My O&M Instructor recommended Guiding Eyes because their Specialized Training Program would be a good choice for me.

What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog?  I look forward to getting out and traveling more safely to places like the Spaulding Rehabilitation Center, where I am able to participate in sports activities.

Were there any training highlights? “The first time we walked together was a highlight. I felt more comfortable walking with him. I didn’t have to worry about getting too close to garbage cans or other obstacles since he took care of that. I live in Arlington and it’s a busy city with a lot of noises and obstacles.”

Congratulations to Jenkin’s Puppy Raisers, The Blasz Family!

Kimberly and Sparrow, a black lab guide dog in harness.Graduate Team:   Kimberly and Sparrow
About the Team:  Sparrow, a male black Lab, is Kim’s 1st guide dog
Hometown: Leland, North Carolina

Kim is employed as a courtesy clerk at her local grocery store.  In her spare time she likes to read, browse the Internet and hang out with her friends. Kim is looking forward to taking Sparrow with her to a camp for those with visual or hearing impairments near Charlotte, N.C., where there are swimming, rowing and other camp activities to participate in.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Sparrow likes to learn new things and he works well in the harness. He’s very affectionate and likes to be around people. When he’s out of harness he’s a typical Labrador – loves his Nylabone, chasing after balls and dinnertime.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I needed a guide dog for vision and hearing loss, as well as balance issues and Guiding Eyes does all that. I know others who have guide dogs from here and they really recommended the school.”

What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog? “I’m looking forward to having him meet all my friends and going on all sorts of adventures, like being out and about in the city of Wilmington.”

Were there any training highlights? “It was great the first time we were harnessing. I loved that he was ready to work right away.  Everyone at Guiding Eyes is very nice and they care about the dogs and the people. They’re very supportive, even after you return home, they’re there for you. And the food here is superb!”

Congratulations to Sparrow’s Puppy Raisers, The Smith Family!

Lawrence and Nolan, a black and tan German Shepherd guide dog in harness.Graduate Team:   Lawrence and Nolan
About the Team: Nolan, a male black and tan German Shepherd, is Larry’s 1st guide dog
Hometown: West Lafayette, Indiana

Larry worked in manufacturing most of his life. For 25 of those years, he was with one company, first in Illinois and then in Indiana, when the business moved and asked him to join them. He and his family then made the move to Indiana where they reside now. Larry has a love of motorcycles and also enjoys playing golf. He and his wife have been spending time out on the golf course recently and having a blast. They have 3 daughters, and 2 grandchildren, ages 6 and 1. Larry cannot wait to return home to his family, all of whom are dog-lovers, and he knows Nolan will make an amazing addition to the family.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Nolan is my partner and he is my eyes. His personality is fantastic, he just works, works, works. He is very gentle and listens well; we’re becoming a great team.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I have had dogs all of my life, so when I lost my vision, I just knew I was going to get a guide dog. Nolan has done everything that I’ve needed so far. He makes me feel more comfortable when I’m walking and helps to make sure I’m safe. I haven’t even thought about my cane since I’ve been here.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “It’s been a big change. I feel like I can walk faster and farther and I’m less stressed about walking into obstacles. I’m looking forward to working with Nolan when going to the bus stop; it will really open up the opportunity to go to a lot of places. I’m also hoping to start a BEP training program, so I can’t wait for Nolan to join me in learning the vending trade.” 

Were there any training highlights? “The people here are wonderful. It makes you feel like you’re right at home. There were some nerves when I was getting ready to come here, but once I got here there was just a sigh of relief. A dog barked at Nolan while out on route one day and he just paid it no mind. He sat very politely at the curb like he is supposed to. That was very comforting.”

Congratulations to Nolan’s Puppy Raisers, Donna Lynd and Family!

Marvin and Jude, a yellow lab guide dog in harness.Graduate Team:   Marvin and Jude
About the Team:  Jude, a male yellow Lab, is Marvin’s 5th Guiding Eyes dog
Hometown: Rochester, MN

Marvin grew up on a farm in Minnesota, so farming has always been in his soul. Now residing in the city of Rochester, he has been with us since 1988, and is now receiving his 5th dog from Guiding Eyes! Marvin enjoys being outdoors, whether it’s fishing or gardening. He can’t wait for Jude to meet Gonzo, his retired guide dog who is patiently waiting at home for them to return. Marvin is also looking forward to getting back to his vending business; with most of his work taking place on a college campus, Jude will have plenty of people to meet! 

How would you describe your guide dog? “Jude is very affectionate, and he is doing great with his training. Working together is going really smoothly; we’ve already bonded.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I was walking a mile and a half to work, which could be tough sometimes during the Minnesota winters. I thought things might go smoother with a guide dog. Now here I am, 5 dogs later!”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “Having a guide dog can be a big ice breaker. And going from a cane to a dog was actually pretty smooth for me, it brings a lot of confidence, and the freedom of travel comes much easier.”

Were there any training highlights? “I participated in the Home Training program when I was paired with my last two dogs, so it was nice to come to campus this time around and meet all of the new people who have joined Guiding Eyes since I was here last.”

Congratulations to Jude’s Puppy Raiser, John Stout!

Pam and Blossom, a yellow lab guide dog in harness.Graduate Team:   Pamela and Blossom
About the Team:  Blossom, a female yellow Lab, is Pam’s 1st guide dog
Hometown: Rapid City, South Dakota

Pam worked for 22 years in the restaurant business, part of that time as a General Manager. During the cold winters of South Dakota’s Black Hills, Pam enjoys bowling, movies and restaurants with her family. With her husband and their two children (4 and 2), she enjoys nature walks, petting zoos and parks, swimming and hiking. Pam loves to waterski and compares the freeing feeling of being behind a boat with being led by Blossom. She’s excited to know this was the right path for her and cannot wait to get back home to introduce Blossom to her family, including puppy Ginger. 

How would you describe your guide dog? “Blossom is ready for work every single day. She is so loving; loves to give kisses and loves to please. She is always checking in with me and enjoys her belly rubs and play time. She is absolutely the perfect match for me.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I’ve always been a ‘dog person,’ so having a guide dog just made sense for me. My vision rehabilitation counselor encouraged me to apply and when I met a Guiding Eyes’ Field Rep at an NFB conference, he answered so many of my questions. That really helped to make my decision and I applied shortly after that.”

What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog? “This was a perfect fit for me. It provides me with so much security. Having the freedom to walk in anywhere and feel confident has been the biggest key for me.”

Were there any training highlights? “The family feel here has been amazing. This place just makes you comfortable and they do not give up on you. Just being with the other students who understand has been awesome. Guiding Eyes has really been a gift.”

Congratulations to Blossom’s Puppy Raiser, Shannon Reddy!

Rhonda and Tatum, a yellow lab guide dog in harness.Graduate Team:   Rhonda and Tatum
About the Team:  Tatum, a female yellow lab, is Rhonda’s 5th guide dog.

Congratulations to Tatum’s Puppy Raiser, Alexandra Tucker!

Meet the Home Training Graduates

Graduate Team:     Jody and Lacy
About the Team: Lacy, a female yellow Lab, is Jody’s 1st guide dog
Hometown: Charlotte, NC

Jody, from Charlotte NC, is very athletic and ran track and played goal ball in high school. With his team, he participated in the National goal ball competition twice. He was also a three-time champion wrestler during his time in high school. In addition, Jody attended a Modern United Nations conference and presented to State Board of Education regarding the North Carolina School for the Blind’s impact. In his spare time, Jody enjoys singing and playing both the piano and the guitar.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Lacy is definitely a ‘people-dog.’ Once she gets to know you, she becomes part of your family very quickly. She is energetic and very confident. She loves hugs and always asks for one every night before she goes to sleep.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I am planning on heading to college soon, so I wanted to increase my mobility. I also had friends that have had guide dogs, and I was always jealous of how cool it was, and the way they were able to work together.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “When we did our dog walks that first Tuesday, Lacy was my first walk. There was just something about her and I knew that she was going to be my dog. She was also my last walk of the day and I was just certain, you could just feel it.”

Were there any training highlights? “Lacy can read me so well. She can tell when I want to play, when I’m feeling nervous about something or even when I’m about to wake up in the morning.”

Congratulations to Lacy’s Puppy Raisers, Elizabeth Anderson and Katherine Valicenti

John and Darcy, a yellow lab guide dog in harness.Graduate Team:  John and Darcy
About the Team: Darcy, a female yellow Lab, is John’s 10th guide dog and 9th Guiding Eyes dog
Hometown: Hatboro, PA

John lives in Hatboro, PA with his wife Linda, who is also a guide dog user. John received his first guide dog from us in 1966 and is now returning to us for his 9th Guiding Eyes dog!

Congratulations to Darcy’s Puppy Raiser, Christine Moyers!