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Daniela and Sophie

Meet Graduate Daniela

Daniela sits in a sunny area with her black Lab guide dog Sophie for their team portraitGraduate Team: Daniela and Sophie
About the Team: Sophie, a female black lab, is Daniela’s 1st guide dog
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Training: May 2024 On-Campus

Daniela is about to start her second year at Middle Tennessee State University. She is majoring in criminal justice after discovering her interest in criminal law during an introductory course last semester. Daniela has aspirations of becoming a prosecution lawyer. She spends a lot of time studying at the campus Starbucks, accompanied by Sophie. She hopes to join the speech and debate and mock trial teams at the beginning of the upcoming school year. After completing her undergraduate studies, Daniela plans to return to New York to attend Columbia University. Outside of her schoolwork, she enjoys reading, writing fiction, walking, listening to different genres of music, and watching documentaries. She and Sophie like to cuddle on the couch watching movies. Family is important to Daniela. She lives at home with her parents and three younger brothers when school isn’t in session. She is also close with her extended family in Dallas and Mexico. Whenever family visits for New Year’s and Christmas, they have a lot of catching up to do, which will include meeting a new member of the family, Sophie.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Off-harness Sophie is super affectionate and active. She follows me around the apartment with her tags jingling behind me. She’s attuned to my emotional state too. Once I was crying and Sophie was sleeping, but the next thing I knew, she was jumping up, tail wagging, and licking me to make me feel better. We’d only known each other for a few days at that point. It’s incredible to see the difference in her when in harness. She has many of our routes down already, but I consider her to be more than a guide dog. She’s affectionate toward everyone but has a protective streak. One night I took her out for the last time, and we heard footsteps approaching. She began to pull me toward the apartment, which she doesn’t normally do. I fumbled with the key, and she was insistent I get inside once the door was unlocked.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I’ve wanted a guide dog since I was five when my instructor mentioned one because I didn’t like my cane.  So I handed her my cane and asked if I could get a guide right then, but she told me once I got older and recommended I wait until college. I have a friend who has had two dogs from Guiding Eyes, so I asked for his recommendation. He said he liked Guiding Eyes and I trust his opinion and applied. I’m happy with my decision because I got Sophie and met so many amazing people.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “It’s made it a lot more interesting. Sophie’s energy is always up, so I have to keep up with her. I’m not a morning person and yet I hear her jump up on my bed at 4 a.m. and I take her outside. I’m able to walk a lot faster and more confidently than I did with a cane, which is what I’d heard. It quickly started to feel natural walking with her and working together. Having her has been great when going places and I’m more active.”

Were there any training highlights? “The class time was short, but with a small group, we got more time with the trainers. There were only three other students, and we all rode up to campus together from the airport and started talking. We bonded during those weeks, and I still keep in touch with them. My instructors were so great – we gave them a card with gift cards inside. We planned it without them noticing and gave it to them at graduation. We also got Chef Rob a cutting board and gift cards. Everything was really good, and I loved it. It was such a bittersweet departure, leaving the second family I made.”

Meet Guide Dog Sophie

DOB:  12/18/2021
Litter ID: 8S321
Color/Breed:  Black/Labrador
Gender: Female
Brood: Roz
Stud: Elrod
Littermates: Scarlett, Sullivan, Sawyer, Saint, Seager, Skye
Region:  Maine
Regional Puppy Instructor: Lisa Bumbalo
Puppy Raiser:  Deborah Dik, Camille & Hannah Clifford
Facebook: Maine Puppy Raisers

From the Puppy Raiser…

Sophie is the sweetest and most sensitive girl we have raised to date! She is the biggest lovebug and we can’t wait to watch her relationship with Dani grow! I loved taking her out in public and watching her grow with each new outing. She also enjoyed playing with all the other dogs in our lives, most especially Winfrey who is her Aunt and sister to Sophie’s mother, Roz, who we also raised. We are so proud of Sophie and can’t wait to watch her soar in her new partnership!  ~ Camille & Hannah Clifford

Photos of the Team…