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Carly and Sharon

Meet Graduate Carly

Graduate Carly and yellow Lab guide dog Sharon sit on a bench against a brick wallGraduate Team: Carly and Sharon
About the Team: Sharon, a female yellow Lab, is Carly’s 2nd guide dog
Hometown: McConnells, South Carolina
Training: November 2022 Home Training

Carly is 25 and works in real estate as a Sales Support Administrator. At her job, she often hosts and gathers supplies for volunteer opportunities. As a teenager, Carly founded Eye2Eye, where she wrote blog posts aimed at young adults, sharing her story, and expressing her feelings as she was experiencing vision loss. In her free time, Carly enjoys outdoor activities year-round. She grew up visiting her grandparents’ house on a lake and loves water-skiing during the summer. During the winter months, she likes to go hunting. She also enjoys hanging out with her friends, family, and dogs, plus baking and cooking. Some of her favorite recipes are banana bread, peanut butter cookies with Hershey kisses in the center, dog treats, and smoking meats like brisket. She always loves trying new recipes and finding new things to make. Her retired guide Brinkley and her current guide Sharon, (described as two peas in a pod), are often interested in what she’s making. Carly recently purchased a house with her boyfriend in June of this year. Her family has always been very supportive of her and her parents, brother, and sister all live about a half hour away, as do her grandparents.

How would you describe your guide dog? “She’s super social and loving. She loves to give lots of love and kisses. I can’t even wrap one present without her trying to sit in my lap. Any time she meets someone new when she’s off-duty and out of harness, she immediately warms up to them; it’s instant. She’s very sweet and can tell when something’s wrong, and sense when I’m feeling upset. She’s attached to me. I can’t even go to the bathroom alone; she’s wondering where we’re going.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes?  “I was 15 years old when I found out about my eyesight, so I was learning how to do Braille with my vision teacher in high school. We were talking about canes, and being in high school I was worried about being made fun of, so she asked if I ever thought about getting a guide dog. I asked what she meant, and she said there are service dogs that people have in place of a cane. I couldn’t believe it and she told me to do some research. After our session was over, I immediately Googled service dogs and guide dogs to find everything I could. I found Guiding Eyes, filled out an application and told my parents I wouldn’t get one until I was 16, but I wanted to let them know I did this. Once I told them what a guide dog does, they thought it was a great idea. With me being young at the time, they let me know it would be a big responsibility and I’d have to take care of the dog -all the normal things parents would say. The reason why I reapplied for another dog from Guiding Eyes was because I really loved the organization and Brinkley was such a great guide for me. The fact that I got to keep him after he retired was something that I hold really close to my heart.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “I feel like I’ve gotten my independence back. I have more confidence when I cross the street or go somewhere new, especially when it’s dim or rainy outside because that doesn’t help my remaining sight at all. Having a service dog at night has been a huge help since I have total night blindness. Even if there’s a little bit of light, it doesn’t help at all. Streetlights may make it bright, but it makes it hard for me to see, so having a guide dog to help me is nice. Some people prefer using a cane, so kudos and whatever works for them is awesome, but at the same time, finding out that you’re losing your eyesight is depressing. In having a furry friend next to you that’s your companion, that helps guide you through everything, you’ll form a bond with that dog. You feel like they understand and know when to show you love when you’re feeling down.”

Were there any training highlights? “I love the Home training way more than On-Campus training because I’m such a homebody. I actually got homesick when I went there to get Brinkley, but this Home training was awesome because I was able to practice routes I do daily. I also think it was great for the second guide, as opposed to my first one. I can see why they had me do it that way for the first one. I practiced with the guide dog in an elevator, revolving doors, getting on a train and subway – all those different things I’ll need if we ever travel to New York.”

Meet Guide Dog Sharon

DOB:  3/5/2020
Litter ID: 7S20
Color/Breed:  Yellow/Labrador Retriever
Gender: Female
Brood: Frannie
Stud: Ryan
Littermates: Sabrina, Seth, Sassy, Sven, Sharmrock, Sunshine, Sparky, Sandy
Region:  Eastern MA
Regional Puppy Instructor: Lisa Bumbalo
Puppy Raiser:  Lynn Stas
Facebook: Eastern Mass Puppy Raisers

From the Puppy Raiser…

Raising Sharon was fun. She is a bright girl with a sweet personality and a tiny bit of sass. Enjoyed working with her and watching her figure out things and be so happy when she did. She loved to go on our outings. Having a mentor dog at home to show her how to play well with another dog and learn good house manners really helped. I am happy for Sharon and you and wish you all the best. ~ Lynn Stas

Photos of the Team…