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Deni and Hildy

Meet Graduate Deni

Deni sits on a bench in front of tropical trees and greenery with Hildy at her feetGraduate Team:  Deni and Hildy
About the Team:  Hildy, a female black Lab, is Deni’s 5th guide dog (3rd Guiding Eyes)
Location:  St. Petersburg, Florida
Training: December 2023 Home Training

Deni earned her D.Ed. from Harvard University and is an ethics scholar.  Her many academic titles and professional accomplishments include professor emeritus, University of South Florida, and co-Chief Project Officer of the National Ethics Project. Deni’s relationship with Guiding Eyes is multifaceted. In addition to having worked with 3 Guiding Eyes guide dogs, Deni served as a member of the Guiding Eyes for the Blind Graduate Council. Deni’s guide dogs support her active lifestyle and busy travel schedule, whether it be hiking in Montana or a professional engagement in NYC!

How would you describe your guide dog? “Hildy is curious and creative. She loves getting dressed in her harness and working. She knows her job, stopping for curbs and ignoring my ‘Forward’ command when she has determined it is not yet safe to cross. I am impressed how well she checks for bicycle and golf cart traffic as well as cars and trucks. She is creative in making choices, like deciding we should walk up the ramp instead of stairs. She is curious and when she is off harness, she is interested in sniffing and in greeting guests enthusiastically. Hildy is closely related to my first guiding eyes dog, Alberta, and they share some of the same lovely traits. Like Alberta, Hildy is left-pawed and crosses her front feet when stretched out and relaxed. Hildy is also a very physical dog; If I am on the floor, she wants to sit in my lap, which makes yoga challenging.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes?  “A close friend was Director of Puppy Training for a service dog organization. That organization received Guiding Eyes puppies that were determined to not be a good fit for guide dog work. My friend said that of all the 8-week-old puppies she received from a variety of guide dog schools and other donors, the Guiding Eyes puppies were most impressive. They were calm and quick to learn. At 8 weeks, they knew their names and basic commands. Guiding Eyes was clearly doing something special if even the ‘released’ puppies were that impressive. My three perfectly matched dogs tell me that I made the right choice.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “How hasn’t it impacted my life? I feel much safer than I did relying on a white cane or sighted guide. My sighted friends, who have all forgotten at times to alert me to curbs and obstacles, are amazed that my Guiding Eyes dog NEVER forgets that she is on duty. My guide dog makes it safe for me to do my consulting work in cities throughout the world and hike in the wilderness. All three of my Guiding Eyes dogs have shown me they have the big picture of the environment we are in. If I ever get uncertain, Hildy touches my leg with her nose and gives a quick shake to say, ‘Relax, I got this!’”

Were there any training highlights? “I met Nikki Wentz, my home trainer with Hildy, more than 10 years ago when I first went to Guiding Eyes to meet my first dog, Alberta. Nikki is supportive and optimistic.  She had Hildy and me walking many miles each day and helped us see the potential we had to be great partners. After some coaching and only three attempts, Hildy successfully targeted the DELTA ticket counter in the Tampa airport. Hildy and I recently flew from Tampa to LaGuardia for a weekend of professional meetings and theatre. Hildy was much more comfortable on the subway than I, showing that she had trained extensively in the city.“

Meet Guide Dog Hildy

DOB:  7/9/2021
Litter ID: 9HH21
Color/Breed:  Black/Labrador
Gender: Female
Brood: Emblem
Stud: Duke
Littermates: Howard, Harry, Hazy, Herman, Hugh, Hayley, Halsey, Hawaii, Hal
Region: New Hampshire
Regional Puppy Instructor: Lisa Bumbalo
Puppy Raiser:  The Richards Family
Facebook: New Hampshire Puppy Raisers

From the Puppy Raiser…

Hildy was the sweetest, snuggliest pup we have raised. We’ve never met a dog with a greater zest for life or eagerness to please and get something done for you. It was so fun to watch her learn and take on new challenges, but our favorite things about her were how silly she was when she played and got the biggest zoomies with our released lab, Yahtzee, and how much she loved to snuggle with us. We will always absolutely adore Hildy and are so happy that she gets to enjoy a life full of adventure and excitement with Deni. ~ Zach & Ella Richards, Puppy Raisers

Photos of the Team…