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DeAnna and Whimsey

Meet Graduate DeAnna

DeAnna sits next to black Lab guide dog Whimsey for team portraitGraduate Team:  DeAnna and Whimsey
About the Team:  Whimsey, a female black Lab, is DeAnna’s 2nd Guiding Eyes dog
Location:  Bristol, Tennessee
Training:  September 2023 On-Campus Training

DeAnna is originally from Mississippi, where she earned her bachelors and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees at Mississippi State University. She was a practicing veterinarian for more than 17 years followed by 6 years as an adjunct professor teaching anatomy and physiology. She returns to Guiding Eyes for her second guide dog, Whimsey, but her relationship with the organization started long before. Prior to requiring a guide dog of her own, DeAnna and her husband Andrew’s interest in getting involved in a service dog organization led them to Guiding Eyes. They raised 2 puppies, Peppy and Bradley, who graduated as guide dogs. After her own vision loss, DeAnna was paired with her first guide dog, Kendalee, now retired. DeAnna went on to start a successful vending business, Yellow Dog Vending, which was named after Kendalee. Currently, DeAnna is enjoying opportunities to reach out as both a motivational and educational public speaker. 

How would you describe your guide dog? “Whimsey is all business when in her harness.  The best way to describe her work is ‘precise’. Her name suits her based on the definition of the word. She is indeed ‘playfully quaint in an appealing and amusing way’.  Whimsey wakes up happy and everyone knows she’s there when she enters a room!”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes?  “My husband and I both love dogs and wanted to get involved with a service dog organization to make an impact either in the life of a veteran, (he is retired from the U.S. Navy), or someone with vision loss.  We researched many organizations and Guiding Eyes impressed us with the quality of the dogs and services they offer. As a veterinarian I am always focused on the advocacy of the dog. Guiding Eyes is a good steward of the dogs they breed. Each is treated fairly and with kindness. Each dog is carefully evaluated and ‘listened’ to, ensuring it chooses its own path as a guide, other service dog or pet.  My husband and Eli Manning are both graduates of the University of Mississippi, and during our research my husband became aware of Eli Manning’s involvement in Guiding Eyes. Coincidently, Eli held the first puppy we raised in a photo on Guiding Eyes’ promotional materials!  As puppy raisers, we got an in-depth view of the organization and I knew when I wanted my own guide dog, it would come from Guiding Eyes. Our relationship with Guiding Eyes was meant to be and we are very grateful.” 

How has having a guide dog impacted your life?  “I often say a guide dog allows those with vision loss to live ‘extraordinarily ordinary lives’.  We can maintain our independence and the ability to do so much! My guide dogs, Kendalee and now Whimsey, enable me to be the best version of myself.  I am more confident with a guide dog knowing they will do everything to keep me safe.  I am a competent cane user, however, with Whimsey I walk taller and with my head up.  The relationship between a guide dog and their handler is very special.  It is truly two beings that love and respect each other; a soul touching a soul.  There are not enough words to express the gratitude I have for Guiding Eyes.”

Were there any training highlights? “I trained at the Yorktown Campus with each of my guide dogs.  There were many memorable moments during my recent training!  A highlight and personal challenge for me was the ‘night walk’.  I have some vision and light perception in one eye, but I anticipate and worry about losing that. I was unsure whether I could do a night walk.  With the support of my trainer, Whimsey and I ventured outside of my comfort zone. I chose to close my eyes to really get a sense of what Whimsey and I are capable of. That walk on an unfamiliar route amazed and assured me that Whimsey and I together can navigate the most difficult scenarios.  Whimsey and I also went to New York City. I travel often and cities can create a lot of anxiety. Whimsey demonstrated excellent skills in that environment too -subways, escalators, elevators; we did it all!  I made some videos of the training and shared them on YouTube. Puppy raisers especially appreciated the glimpse into the next phase of a guide dog’s development.  With their interest and encouragement, I have continued to share the process of training on the Guiding Eyes campus.  I enjoy educating others along this journey.

Meet Guide Dog Whimsey

DOB:  6/10/2021
Litter ID: 7W21
Color/Breed:  Black/Labrador
Gender: Female
Brood: Nadine
Stud: Odin
Littermates: Wilbur, Webster, Winslet, Wrangler, Waffle, Windy, Wella, Winsome
Region:  Eastern MA
Regional Puppy Instructor: Lisa Bumbalo
Puppy Raiser:  Erin Faulder
Facebook: Eastern Mass Puppy Raisers

From the Puppy Raiser…

It was an honor to help Whimsey learn to channel her boundless, unending energy into focused attention. She was always ready to explore someplace new. Her enthusiasm and curiosity for every adventure meant that she handled two moves in succession with a happy bounce in every step. Her ability to go from focused work to goofy play the moment her vest came off never ceased to entertain and surprise me. Whimsey works hard and plays harder, and I’m so proud of her next adventure!  ~Erin Faulder, Puppy Raiser

Photos of the Team…