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Darran and Merlin

Meet Graduate Darran

Darran sits against a sunny blue sky with yellow lab guide dog MerlinGraduate Team: Darran and Merlin
About the Team: Merlin, a male yellow Lab, is Darran’s 3rd guide dog
Location: Orem, Utah
Training: March 2023 Home Training

Darran was born and raised in Pendleton, Oregon. He attended Utah State University, earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology while minoring in business information systems. He then pursued his master’s degree at the University of Utah earning a degree in social work. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), working in the field of drug rehabilitation at a luxury residential drug rehabilitation center. He was diagnosed at an early age with Usher’s Syndrome, a genetic disease that affects both hearing and vision, and in 2012 received cochlea implants providing him with improved auditory senses. Darran and his wife Alesha have been married for three years, each bringing three children into their combined family, which includes two grandchildren. Darran’s hobbies include watching movies, fishing and hunting deer and elk. Darran’s second dog, Lou, was recently retired and Merlin is his third guide dog from Guiding Eyes.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Merlin reminds me a lot of my first guide dog, Archer. He is unbelievably precise and always wants to do a good job. For example, in the grocery store, he will guide me to various options in his effort to please.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “In 2008 I participated in a special needs program developed for the deaf and blind. At that time, I learned about Guiding Eyes and their ability to accommodate my special needs.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “My guide dogs have provided me with much greater freedom. I can travel faster and further than when I relied on assistive devices. For comparison purposes it’s the difference between driving a Cadillac and Pinto. The Pinto is good, the Cadillac is terrific.”                 

Were there any training highlights? “I trained at home with my instructor Michael. From the outset we discussed the specifics we needed to work on. Training turned out to be short and sweet. He was excellent in his understanding of my specific training needs, which included following my work transportation route. He was also able to accommodate my work schedule, enabling me to not miss a beat at work.”

Meet Guide Dog Merlin

DOB:  4/24/2019
Litter ID: S-8GG19
Color/Breed:  Yellow/Labrador Retriever
Gender: Male
Brood: Poem
Stud: Oakland
Littermates: Greta, Waylon, Blue, Oxford, Ginger, Mamie, Garrett
Region:  Southern CT, Richmond
Regional Puppy Instructor: Maureen Hollis, Kerry Lemerise
Puppy Raiser:  Wendy Savino, Dana Metheny & Anne Annala, Diane & Terry Haglund
Facebook: Richmond Puppy Raisers

Special Recognition: Merlin was special named by the Manning Family. Click to read and watch a video about the Mannings and Merlin’s litter.

From the Puppy Raiser…

Merlin was the first puppy I raised, and, boy, did I get lucky. He was a wonderful puppy with a calm demeanor and laid-back personality, who slept through the night right away and took to his crate nicely. He didn’t get overly excited about much, which was a good thing since there are quite a few dogs at my house on any given day. On an outing to introduce the pups to the Worchester Regional Airport, he breezed through security.   We all sat in a row in the terminal with the dogs in a down under our chairs, while people and other dogs walked or ran by. Merlin peacefully slept under my chair. He was great in restaurants where he would just sleep. He even joined me for dinner on a train and the other customers didn’t know he was there. At Halloween Merlin had no problem being dressed up in a costume that included a tin can and a bottle hung on his back. I got spoiled by having Merlin as my first dog. I am thrilled that he has been matched and I’m sure he will make his new person proud. It truly does take a village to raise a service dog, and everyone involved should be commended. Thank you everyone for all you do. ~ Wendy Savino, Puppy Raiser

As a puppy with Dana and Anne, Merlin was an adventurous boy, eager to learn, play, explore, and cuddle. He has a lovely personality, and enjoys pleasing his people! He was raised during the Covid lockdown but towards the end of his time in Richmond, he finally got to go out to offices, museums, public places. In the last couple of months, Terry took him to so many places, and Merlin got to meet new adults and children. He was a total ROCKSTAR when he met the WORLD! We all love him to pieces and are thrilled that he has a new partner. What a lucky person to have Merlin as a Guide. I’m sure Merlin will shine, love, work, and play with gusto. Congratulations to the new Team Merlin!  ~ Dana Metheny & Anne Annala and Terry & Diane Haglund

Photos of the Team…