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Deborah and Scarlett

Meet Graduate Deborah

Deborah leans into black lab guide Scarlett while sitting on a stone outdoor benchGraduate Team: Deborah & Scarlett
About the team: Scarlett, a female black Lab, is Deborah’s 1st guide dog
Location: South Boston, Virginia
Training: March 2024 Home Training

Deborah is retired from a long career at the Talking Book Library in Richmond, Virginia. She is the chairman of a women’s group at her church and has enjoyed introducing Scarlett at the monthly meetings. In her free time, Deborah enjoys watching TV, baking sweets of all varieties with a friend, attending church, and doing Braille. She converts her church bulletin to Braille each week. Deborah also enjoys spending time with her family. She and Scarlett are fortunate to live with her mother, niece, nephew, and great-niece. She happily anticipates taking more walks with Scarlett to help keep active and healthy.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Scarlett is very loving and likes to know what’s going on around her! She also loves to sniff and eat her food. I’ve never had a dog before, so it is interesting to learn about her. It has been seamless going from not ever having a dog to having Scarlett. There have been no real problems at all. She sleeps on her bed next to mine at night. I don’t let her on the furniture or in bed – yet! She is very cuddly and loves her tug-of-war toys. She plays with me and also plays with my grand-niece’s dog. She has a very good work ethic, especially if her handler could stop saying ‘go left’ when she actually means ‘go right’! She is a happy girl and still has her ‘happy’ ears.” 

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I researched all the different guide dog schools, and I really liked the way Guiding Eyes appealed to me. It just jumped out at me when I was looking. The training methods more than anything caught my eye, and I also liked that they give you access to an annual stipend towards veterinary bills. There’s great follow-up care. Nikki was my trainer and she’s very nice. We went out to eat and she went with me to church twice. Anything I ask her, she’s right there willing to help me with it. I wouldn’t be a bit ashamed to call them for help. It feels like a family at Guiding Eyes.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “I can tell you it’s made me get up earlier than I used to! It’s a positive thing, though, not negative at all. It’s helping me step out of my comfort zone as well. I used to be scared to go outside at 9 pm and now I take Scarlett outside, and I feel fine. I wanted security and a companion. Now I have Scarlett.”

Were there any training highlights? “I would say my trust in Scarlett came on the second day of training. The most challenging thing was a specific intersection near my home. My mobility instructor had said not to cross it with my white cane. I would not even attempt to cross it with my cane, but I was able to with Scarlett. It’s a very complicated intersection and Scarlett made it uncomplicated. I trusted Scarlett and that made all the difference.”

Meet Guide Dog Scarlett

DOB:  12/18/2021
Litter ID: S-P-2S321
Color/Breed:  Black/Labrador
Gender: Female
Brood: Roz
Stud: Elrod
Littermates: Sullivan, Sawyer, Saint, Sophie, Seager, Skye
Region:  Southwestern VT, Westchester
Regional Puppy Instructor: Kate Gardner, Elizabeth Vacchiano
Puppy Raiser:  Melissa Scheffler & Dyllan Cloutier, Susan Testa
Facebook: Southern Vermont Puppy Raisers
Facebook: Westchester NY Puppy Raisers

Special Recognition: Scarlett was special named by the Constance M. Cooper Charitable Foundation. The Foundation is proud to have named a pup who will continue the great work of Guiding Eyes for the Blind. 

From the Puppy Raiser…

Scarlett is the first puppy I raised for Guiding Eyes and I poured my heart into this awesome girl. She was a sweet, affectionate pup right from the start, giving lots of kisses and snuggles. When Scarlett is happy her ears go back; we called them elephant ears! She’s quick to learn and eager to please. I was impressed with how quickly she learned our routes around our neighborhood and the way back home. Scarlett is a social butterfly and loved saying hello to everyone and every dog we met, so, one of our early challenges was working on dog distraction. We put in a lot of time and focus and Scarlett made great progress! I slowly expanded her socialization to beyond grocery stores and train stations, to summer concerts in the park, the July 4th and Halloween parades – all filled with people, kids and lots of dogs! Scarlett loves a good long walk and when older and stronger we’d do a 4-5 mile hike. She loves sniffing in the woods! One of Scarlett’s strengths is her sweet sensitive temperament which makes her an exceptional companion. My elderly Mom was recovering at home from a long hospitalization. When visiting, Scarlett would calmly sit next to my Mom’s feet and just instinctively stayed close to her. I like to think that’s Scarlett’s way of showing compassion and a bond she developed not only with me but with my family. I’m so proud of the work Scarlett and I did together and how she’s matured into a highly capable and loving guide dog!  ~Susan Testa

Photos of the Team…