Graduate Team: Barbara and Kenneth
About the Team: Kenneth, a male black Lab, is Barbara’s 2nd Guiding Eyes dog
Location: Arvada, Colorado
Training: April 2023 On-Campus
Barbara returns for her second guide dog, Kenneth, and so their story begins, “Barbie met Ken at Guiding Eyes and they fell in love”. Was this partnership just a coincidence, or was it meant to be? Barbara was born into a military family in Chicago. Due to glaucoma, growing up she had complete vision loss in her right eye and limited light vision overall. She spent her youth in various locations and graduated high school in Germany. Barbara returned to the U.S. and went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in English from Bates College in Maine. Work opportunities took her down a different professional path and she retired from a career in Information Technology. Barbara has one son, Peter, 27. She recently relocated from Massachusetts to Colorado, just northwest of Denver, so she could be closer to her father and family. She loves to read and remains active, with other interests that include, tandem bicycling, running, and sailing. Her love of sailing is so great, that she recently traveled back to the East Coast to participate in a four-day sailing regatta on Long Island Sound.
How would you describe your guide dog? “Kenneth is a wonderful and extremely proud guide dog. He has an abundance of energy and always keeps me safe. However, he is still very much a puppy when not working. My first guide dog Loretta, also a black Lab, was just 51 lbs. In contrast, Kenneth is tall and solid, almost the size of a city bus. Despite his size he still manages to tuck himself at my feet when traveling by plane.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I was utilizing a cane before I received my first guide dog, Loretta. I soon learned how amazing a guide dog can be. With a guide dog you can walk down the street and feel so much better about your surroundings. Guiding Eyes was highly recommended as the best school to pursue. I didn’t consider applying anywhere else. It was a no brainer after Lorretta was retired, to return to Guiding Eyes.”
How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “I feel safer with a guide dog. The environment is no longer an impediment. My past environmental encounters are no longer problematic with a guide dog. Traveling with a pal by my side and providing care for Kenneth has been life changing, as I fulfill his needs as well.”
Were there any training highlights? “The training included riding a New York City subway and going out to lunch. In addition, I met the Maryland couple who raised Kenneth. Kenneth was the first puppy they raised, and it was very apparent that they loved raising him. In fact, Kenneth and I will be visiting them in Maryland in July. The second highlight was the smaller size of my training group. This second time around with Kenneth, we had just four trainees in the class. As a result, we quickly got to know one another, and we continue to maintain contact. Our instructors collectively rallied around the class, treating the students like family. Shannon was my primary instructor and Payden, was our Running Guide trainer. As a result, I am now able to run with Kenneth, guiding me on the paths along Clear Creek, which runs near my home.”
Litter ID: 3K21
Color/Breed: Black/Labrador Retriever
Littermates: Kevin, Kaya, Kodiak
Regional Puppy Instructor: Jeanyne Gembarski
Puppy Raiser: Karoline S. Avard & Ron K. Heft, Jr.
Facebook: Montgomery Puppy Raisers
From the very beginning, Kenneth displayed a strong will and deep enjoyment when working. Even as a young puppy, he thrived in situations where a high level of focus was required, and Kenneth was always ready to step right out at a brisk pace. As he grew in maturity, he demonstrated a great love for work and rose to any challenge, including visiting the White House multiple times, working in DC in a variety of settings, even encountering the beach for the first time! Between family hikes, going for runs, attending athletic events and theater presentations, and walking me down the aisle, Kenneth has been a reliable and loving presence who has always known his own mind and striven to make the right choices. I’m so excited to see his incredible growth and rising to his potential, and I can’t wait to see what he and his partner do in the future! ~ Karoline Avard and Ron Heft