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Cindy and Barbara

Meet Graduate Cindy

Cindy and guide Barlie sit together on a gray couchGraduate Team: Cindy and Barbara (Barlie)
About the Team: Barlie, a female yellow Lab, is Cindy’s 6th guide dog
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Training: March 2023 Home Training

Cindy is retired after 34 years as a teacher of the blind and visually impaired with Chicago Public Schools. She is a member of Crafty Angels and meets with a group of blind knitters at Blind Services Association, as well. Through these two groups, she lovingly knits everything from prayer shawls, hat and scarf sets, and baby items, to head coverings for cancer patients and toiletry kits & washcloths for women in shelters and maternity wards. Cindy cherishes the time she spends with her five grandchildren, who range in age from 2 months old to 4 years old, and visiting her husband who resides in a nursing home. She is an avid audiobook reader with a wide range of interests, that run the gamut from biographies, historical fiction, and murder mysteries. She enjoys cooking and tweaking a recipe to make it her own. She appreciates time with close friends, running errands, going to lunch, or frequenting a coffee shop.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Barlie is always attentive and careful because my balance isn’t that good, and my gait gets thrown off a bit. I can tell she’s looking back like ‘are you okay?’ Recently my neighbor said that when I picked up the harness to go out with Barlie, her whole demeanor changed. Out of the harness, she’s affectionate and loves to lay on my feet like they’re a pillow. She entertains herself well, but she loves belly rubs and loves her routine. When she plays, her tail is up, but when she’s working her tail is down; not in an unhappy way, but because she’s focused.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes?  “I decided to get a guide dog when my son and daughter were 8 and 6. Downtown Chicago was starting to create outdoor cafes, installing wheelchair ramps, and smoothing out curbs, so cane travel became difficult. I asked people with guide dogs from three different schools why they chose those schools. The person who recommended Guiding Eyes used to be on the Graduate Council and became a good friend. When arriving at Guiding Eyes, they treat you like family from the time they meet you at the airport. There is no pretense or distance between trainer and student. The housekeeping, kitchen staff, and everybody there makes you feel welcome, which stood out to me.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “I worked at a public high school with students using wheelchairs, walkers, etc., and my first guide dog didn’t let anything phase her. When I became an itinerant teacher, I traveled from school to school, covering five or six schools throughout the month. At one point, my guide was out of commission for a while and it was like, ‘Where did that pole come from? When did that cabinet get there?’ I really appreciated how a guide dog helped me get through all these schools, each with a different layout. I learned to appreciate what they’re capable of doing. Barlie helps me get up and out. Without a dog, I’m at home and don’t venture beyond my front entrance, unless I’m with someone.”

Were there any training highlights? “In my past training experiences, I spent a week on campus and a week at home, which was ideal because I had my husband and young kids. It helped me focus and concentrate and made the transition easier, but now Home Training is ideal. My housing complex is pretty unique. We’re like our own oasis in the city and it’s not pedestrian friendly, so not easily replicated. Also, I need to keep tabs on my husband. It was a moving moment for me, going to the nursing home so Barlie could get acclimated and learn to find my husband’s room. We practiced with my trainer, and the second time we went with my friend, and on the third trip, Barlie was on target, going around carts and wheelchairs; it really surprised me. She’s got a great memory. That, and her ability to take everything in stride, are the most outstanding things I’ve been impressed with.”

Meet Guide Dog Barbara (Barlie)

DOB:  12/8/2020
Litter ID: 8B320
Color/Breed:  Yellow/Labrador Retriever
Gender: Female
Brood: Leah
Stud: Oreo
Littermates: Breezy, Bella, Benny, Bahama, Bryce
Region:  Monroe, NY
Regional Puppy Instructor: MeKalea Chambliss
Puppy Raiser:  Karie Livingston
Facebook: Monroe Puppy Raisers

Photos of the Team…