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Claire and Vero

Meet Graduate Claire

Claire sits with black Lab guide dog Vero for their team portrait

Graduate Team:   Claire and Vero
About the Team:   Vero, a male black Lab, is Claire’s first guide dog
Location:   Morrisville, Vermont
Training:   January 2024 On-Campus

Claire is a retired medical social worker, after a 35 year career at a local Vermont hospital where she still consults occasionally. She has an undergraduate degree from the University of Vermont and a graduate MSW degree from Adelphi University. Claire has three children and four grandchildren who live nearby. In addition to visits with family, she loves music, singing with others, and yoga.  She is involved in her local Lamoille Neighbors, a group of community volunteers which provides services for older adults, and workshops like song writing and pottery making. Claire helps out by cooking meals for those returning home from the hospital. She is enjoying having her first guide dog and the safety and companionship that Vero brings. 

How would you describe your guide dog?  “He is just precious, loving, smart, attentive, responsive, and happy. He’s a good boy! He is wonderful and gets along so well with my cat.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes?  “I live in a small town and mainly walk where I need to go or ask a friend to drive me.  It was the Vermont Association for the Blind that suggested I get a guide dog.  For my safety, and not wanting to bump into people, I began doing research online to learn about guide schools. In talking with Guiding Eyes, I found everyone helpful, friendly, and encouraging.  During the call I felt their acceptance and I just knew that this was the right school for me.”

How has a guide dog impacted your life?  “I feel safer with Vero and more confident about going to places on my own.  Yesterday we walked to where I was getting a special facial massage, and I brought a mat for him to lie on. He was so good and lay there in the room with me for the whole hour and a half massage.  Last week we walked to my Yoga class, and I feel safe from bumping into people, and he steers me away from things I’d trip and fall over. There are stores and restaurants that are within walking distance, and having Vero has greatly increased my independence. ” 

Were there any training highlights?  “Being in class was a wonderful experience. Trainers Kat and Michelle were great with our class of 4 students.  We rode a bus, went to Starbucks and to a restaurant.  Vero was just perfect in those places, lying down with no begging for treats.  We also took a trip to Mt. Kisco and that was fun. I loved it when all the dogs went out to their play area on campus and didn’t have to work for a while. There was a good balance of the staff knowing when to be flexible and when to be firm.  All the training staff and kitchen staff had a great sense of humor, so there was a lot of laughter, and that was essential.  Ben, [Client Experience Director], was great and the plane ride was much better than taking a train to Yorktown, so thank you. My remote instructor, Kathy, was wonderful too. They were all very nice people.”

Meet Guide Dog Vero

DOB:  12/22/2021
Litter ID: S-4V321
Color/Breed:  Black/Labrador Retriever
Gender: Male
Brood: Wanita
Stud: Pablo
Littermates: Veronica, Vala, Vasha, Valise, Vale, Vern, Vader, Vega
Region:  Baltimore
Regional Puppy Instructor: Jeanyne Gembarski
Puppy Raiser:  Holly Voelker, Michelle McCullough
Facebook: Baltimore Puppy Raisers

Special Recognition: Vero was special named by Will Persampieri.

From the Puppy Raiser…

Vero was a sweet and fun puppy to raise; he loves balls of all kinds especially retrieving them. Vero was the best hiking and running partner and adored swimming and getting wet. Vero also adored his toys and his favorites were moose and blue dog. Vero also loved to work and was always up for an outing anywhere from grocery stores, breweries, museums, ferry rides, stadiums, zoo trips and of course playdates with other pups. Vero was a great ambassador for GEB, was smart and adapted to situations well. The highlight was raising Vero with my friend Holly Voelker. Holly raised Pablo, Vero’s Dad and I was happy that she asked me to co-raise Vero. Vero was also a special named pup which was an amazing experience. Thank you to Vero’s new partner. I am so happy you have each other. ~ Michelle McCullough, Puppy Raiser

It was a unique experience raising Vero, since I also raised his dad, Pablo. They share the same sweet, lovable and silly personality. Vero was a model student in puppy class and we frequently received compliments about his behavior. However, when class was over, Vero would “cut loose” and have us laughing again. To this day, whenever I see a tennis ball, I think of Vero and how he would spontaneously drop one at your feet, engaging you for an endless game of fetch. My experience raising Vero was also unique because it was the first time I co-raised with another puppy raiser, which was very rewarding. Vero lives life with joy and I will always remember him with love in my heart and a smile on my face! ~ Holly Voelker, Puppy Raiser

Photos of the Team…